To help new manager John Toshack get acclimated to his new job, we decided to write an article explaining the outlook of each position.
Goalkeeper: This has been one of the weak spots on the Macedonian national team. No keeper has been able to cement the starting job due to various reasons. A couple of years ago, after the retirement of Jane Nikoloski, Tome Pacovski took over as the preferred starter. However, he suffered a double leg fracture while playing for his club team and that led to Edin Nuredinoski taking over. He seemed to bring some stability to the position as he started numerous games in a row but then had a nightmare of a game against Ireland this past March in a EURO 2012 qualifier. After that match, he lost the job to Martin Bogatinov but he has also looked shaky during his time as the keeper. To make matters worse, Nuredinoski is the only keeper who starts for his club team. Tome Pacovski is now the backup keeper for Belgian club Beerschot as following his lengthy injury, he lost the job to Thomas Kaminski. Martin Bogatinov was starting for Karpaty Lviv to start the season but was relegated to the bench for the last two games. The other keepers called up over the past year, Darko Tofiloski and Kristijan Naumovski, are also not playing for their club teams. Tofiloski, like Bogatinov, recently lost his starting spot for Košice while Naumovski is the #3 keeper for Romanian club Dinamo Bucureşti.
Right back: The biggest weakness on defense has been the RB position. To illustrate how bad the problem has been, the last manager played the tall CB Vance Sikov out of position at RB. The problem has been that the two RB’s that played that position in the past, Vlade Lazarevski and Aleksandar Todorovski, don’t play for their club teams. Lazarevski plays for Amiens in France while Todorovski plays for Polonia Warszawa and neither guy has even been on the bench for their respective teams during the opening games of the season. However, the 19 year old Stefan Ristovski from Crotone will start at right-back during the Azerbaijan friendly and the hope is that he will be able to solidify that position. Daniel Georgievski from Croatian club Šibenik is another potential RB candidate for the senior national team.
Centre back: One of the deepest areas on the team is at the CB position. The position is led by Mainz captain Nikolce Noveski while it also features Boban Grncarov, Vance Sikov, Daniel Mojsov, and Igor Mitreski. All players mentioned are regulars for their club teams and they have similar characteristics. They are tall players, with the exception of Mitreski, who are good in the air but lack pace. They make up for it with good positioning but little, quick, and speedy teams do present problems for the defense. Noveski and Grncarov started in the last game but for the Azerbaijan friendly, the CB pair will be Sikov and Mojsov. Vladimir Dimitrovski was also called up but he has recently been playing for the B team of Mladá Boleslav so Toshack is unlikely to count on him.
Left back: This is one position where we are set. The 26 year old Goran Popov from Dynamo Kyiv is the established starter with Aleksandar Lazevski from Partizan as his backup. Popov has been one of the best players on the national team and has also been playing well for his club team. Lazevski is currently out with an injury and we don’t have much depth besides these two guys at the position but Popov has been pretty reliable.
Midfield: The lack of creativity in the midfield has been a big reason why the national team has been having trouble scoring goals. The majority of the regulars, Velice Sumulikoski, Muhamed Demiri, Slavco Georgievski, Filip Despotovski, are all defensive midfielders and the lack of creativity in midfield has been evident during the recent struggles. Vlatko Grozdanoski is back on the team after a lengthy absence and hopefully he can provide some creativity but the team lacks any difference makers. Stefan Spirovski will get his first cap during the Azerbaijan friendly while the other midfielders have either failed to impress or don’t play for their club teams. For instance, Mario Gjurovski has done well for the national team but he doesn’t play for Metalurh Donetsk and that negatively affects his form while players like Armend Alimi and Darko Tasevski have failed to impress, even though both have been given plenty of opportunities.
Attack: Based on the names, this should be one of our stronger areas but the lack of goals has been a problem. The biggest name is Goran Pandev from Inter who has not played well over the past several months and even contemplated retirement from international duty after he was booed by the Macedonian fans for a lack of effort. The best striker over the past year has undoubtedly been Ivan Trickovski who has been a bright spot in many games ever since he made his debut last year. Ilco Naumoski is the top scorer for Macedonia during EURO 2012 qualifying with two goals but he is not liked by the fans and was dropped by caretaker manager Boban Babunski for the Azerbaijan friendly. The team hopes to receive a boost from talented youngsters Aleksandar Trajkovski and Ferhan Hasani who are considered important players for the future. Other strikers include Stevica Ristić, Bajram Fetai, Aco Stojkov, and Agim Ibraimi. Ristić is a classic in the box striker but he has struggled in 15 caps for the national team, Fetai played in two friendlies for Macedonia but has not received a call up in several months, Stojkov plays in the Swiss second division, while Agim Ibraimi has failed to impress during his few appearances with the team.
The language barrier should not be a huge problem as numerous players on the national team speak English. We can confirm that Goran Popov, Velice Sumulikoski, Ivan Trickovski, and Boban Grncarov are some of the players that speak English. There might possibly be other players that speak the language but we can’t confirm that for sure at this moment. The players should have more respect for John Toshack who has the credentials unlike the previous manager Mirsad Jonuz who had no business being a manager of a national team. Jonuz was previously the U21 manager and the team struggled mightily but somehow Jonuz was rewarded and promoted to become manager of the senior national team. We have read that Toshack was let go as manager of the Wales national team because some of the players got tired of him. He apparently alienated the bigger names and that eventually led to Toshack resigning from the manager position. That should actually be welcomed at the Macedonian national team as no player/s should receive preferential treatment from the manager. A good manager is able to make the last guy feel part of the team and is also not afraid to stand up to the bigger names.
We wish John Toshack all the best as the manager of the Macedonian national team and hopefully he will bring better results that will make the Macedonian fans throughout the world proud of the team.