Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Coach Katanec urges patience in what should prove to be a tricky match…14.11.2006 by Steven Vasilevski - http://www.jadransport.org
Skopje’s Gradski Stadium will no doubt be alight for Wednesday’s encounter with Russia, but Macedonia coach Srecko Katanec is urging a word of caution: be patient. Katanec has his men playing some excellent football to start their Euro 2008 campaign, earning two wins and a tie, including a 0-0 draw away at England, for seven points from four games-a marked turnaround from previous endeavours. But while there is reason to be optimistic in Macedonia, there is also reason to be vigilant: Russia seems to have returned to form in their 2-0 defeat of Estonia last month, while Katanec’s squad will be without some popular names. Add to this equation a generally irritable mix of Gradski soccer fans, and Macedonia might be in for a rough ride.
Macedonia could be struggling to find the opposing net in the absence of key forwards Goran Pandev (S.S. Lazio) and Ilco Naumoski (SV Mattersburg), both on disciplinary suspensions. PFC CSKA Sofia defender Robert Petrov has also been dropped from the team’s roster due to injury, a considerable blow given his part in a Macedonian rearguard that has allowed only a single goal thus far. Finding suitable replacements could be a problem, although no changes to Katanec’s preferred 3-4-1-2 formation are expected. On a positive note, the return of AC Omonia midfielder Vlatko Grozdanovski will surely provide Macedonia with a much-needed morale boost, while Goran Maznov (KSC Lokeren OV), Aco Stojkov (FK Partizan), and newest addition Stevica Ristic (FK Sileks) are all more than capable up front.
Hiddink: Out with the old, in with the new
After winning much praise for Australia’s admirable performance in World Cup 2006, recent decisions by coach Guus Hiddink have been met with some skepticism. Gearing up for their away match in Skopje, Hiddink has left out veteran players Dmitri Loskov, Vladislav Ramimov, and Aleksei Smertin in favour of youngsters and FK Spartak Moskva teammates Roman Shishkin, Aleksei Rebko, and Dmitri Torbinsky. Also making the cut are 22-year-olds Ivan Taranov of PFC CSKA Moskva, and Igor Denisov of FC Zenit St. Petersburg. Despite their inexperience at the international level, Hiddink is confident that speed and intensity will see his boys through. He is similarly convinced that Wednesday’s game is do-or-die for Russia, which currently finds itself two points behind Croatia, England, Israel, and Macedonia in a tightly contested Group E.
First place up for grabs
A Macedonian win in tomorrow’s fixture could give the perennial underachievers sole possession atop Group E, depending on the outcome of Croatia’s encounter with Israel. Russia can also steal first place after Wednesday’s match-ups, speaking to the quality and unpredictability of this group. Hands-down favourites England have already had a rude-awakening, losing most recently to Croatia in Zagreb. Anything is possible in soccer-as they say, “the ball is round”-but a win for Macedonia or Russia will see them well into the new year. Surely these two uncertain sides will spend some time feeling each other out, but after the anticipated early jitters dissipate, tomorrow’s game at Skopje’s Gradski Stadium is poised to be a dandy for devoted fans and casual spectators alike.
Euro 2008 Qualifying Table - Group E
Team Played Points Goals
England 4 7 6:2
Croatia 3 7 9:0
Macedonia 4 7 4:1
Israel 3 7 6:2
Russia 3 5 3:1
Estonia 3 0 0:4
Andorra 4 0 1:19
Labels: Macedonian National Team