Macedonia continues its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a first ever meeting against Germany on Wednesday, to be played in the city of Duisburg.
photo by FFM
Germany is Germany. They are one of the major football powerhouses. Anytime Macedonia faces Germany in football, Germany will be a massive favorite. That is no different here.
However, I do have optimism that our guys will not lay down and provide a proper test.
It is never a good time to play Germany, but the timing here is as good as it will ever get. Macedonia will have most of its key players available, while Germany, although still loaded, is somewhat shorthanded. In their last game, they had just 19 matchday players for the game at Romania. A squad is allowed 23 on a matchday squad.
Because of that, Germany has started the same 11 players in their first two qualifiers against Iceland and Romania. They play a 4-3-3 formation with Neuer in goal, Klostermann, Rudiger, Ginter and Emre Can from right to left in defense, Kimmich, Goretzka and Gundogan in midfield, and Sane, Havertz and Gnabry in attack. It is a formidable lineup, but they are very likely to rotate the squad with several changes expected on Wednesday. I do not foresee them going with the same 11 starters for the third time in seven days. Their bench has a lot of talented young players like Neuhaus, Musiala and Wirtz, but these are very young and inexperienced players at national team level. National team football is a different beast than club football, and somewhat it takes time to find comfort, build chemistry with your teammates and deal with the increased pressure of representing your country.
Furthermore, due to COVID-19, no fans will be present at the stadium. Fans often play a big part whenever you play top sides on the road, whether it be to influence the referee from time to time or just be an intimidating force to never let a visiting team settle down.
That will not be the case in this game with no fans present. Germany will have to find self-motivation which is not always easy because their players will probably be looking ahead, expecting Macedonia to be an easy win. Meanwhile, for our players, they are chomping at the bit and full of excitement to take on Germany and prove that they belong.
Arijan Ademi and Darko Velkovski are expected to be good to go for Macedonia, while Ilija Nestorovski did not make the trip to Germany due to his post-goal verbal outburst on Sunday. Still, overall, the squad is in decent shape. Coach Igor Angelovski was able to replace several key players at the hour mark against Liechtensten, allowing them to preserve some energy for the Germany match.
Given the speed of the German attack, it would be smart to start Stefan Ristovski at right CB, thus having Boban Nikolov fill in at right wing-back. I just think it is not wise to be starting Kire Ristevski or Egzon Bejtulai in such a game. Both are a little stiff, and it pains me thinking what Havertz, Sane, Gnabry or Werner could do to them.
There is no doubt we have to play deep in an organized 3-5-2 formation, and look for our moments offensively on the counter.
I truly believe the above lineup can present problems for Germany. All of the players have good ball control and do not panic, which is imperative when you play the high press from Germany. Furthermore, with Germany playing a high line, you need speed at striker to keep them honest and hit them with balls over the top. That is where Trajkovski comes into play. He is faster and a better athlete than Nestorovski, and he comes into this game feeling good about himself (scored in both the Romania and Liechtenstein games).
It would not surprise me if this game was tied at halftime or by the hour mark. However, I believe Germany has a massive edge in the final third of the match due to their superior fitness. Ademi is on a minutes restriction, so he can probably go 60-70 minutes max, while Darko Velkovski is just coming back from an injury. He will start to fatigue in the 2nd half, and fatigue often leads to mistakes. Pandev, too, can only go 65-75 minutes before he starts to tire at his age. Also, because our bench quality is thin, we are unable to substitute those players with adequate replacements. I only trust Spirovski off the bench.
Macedonia really has nothing to lose. All the pressure is on Germany. They are expected to not only win, but win comfortably. That makes our team dangerous because we do have quality in the starting lineup. I foresee our national team pushing Germany, but in the end these top sides always find a way to win. Being the fitter team will see Germany prevail.
Prediction: Germany – Macedonia 2:1