Macedonia's starters before the Slovakia game

Player reactions to World Cup qualifying draw

Macedonia's starters before the Slovakia gameAfter Macedonia received its opponents for the 2018 World Cup qualifications, we talked to some players to get their thoughts on the draw.

Macedonia learned on Saturday that Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel and Liechtenstein would be in its group for the 2018 World Cup qualifications. It was undoubtedly a challenging group by receiving two football powerhouses in the opening two pots, and then tricky sides such as Albania and Israel.

So, after the draw, we talked to several players to get their thoughts on the draw.

Tome Pachovski: “It’s an attractive and difficult group. However, we have to start thinking about success. That’s the only way we can move forward. I want all of the players to be in good form, and to finally start bringing joy to our fans.”

Vanche Shikov: “This is the hardest group of all the qualifiers in which we have participated thus far. Italy and Spain are total favorites as every point against them would be golden. Furthermore, Albania and Israel are also strong enough opponents, but this is where we need to look for points as well. Meanwhile, Liechtenstein is an outsider in the group, but we can’t underestimate them. We have to take them seriously and look to achieve two wins in that matchup.”

Vladimir Dimitrovski: “Italy was my biggest wish because we have never played against them. I did want to avoid Spain in pot 1, but their arrival here will be good, before else for the public. The fans will get the opportunity to watch two football powers. As for the other teams in the group, I believe we have the capabilities to play with them. Although they are not attractive opponents, we can hold our own and use that chance to improve our rating. That would allow us to move up in the pot system for the next qualifying cycle.”

Leonard Zuta: “I think our group with Italy and Spain is a tough group, but this is to qualify for the World Cup. There is really no group that is easy. Anyway, I think that an easy group on paper can be a difficult one in reality. You can never know beforehand. It happens time to time where teams that are lower ranked beat teams that are higher ranked. The result in football will always be decided on the pitch. For instance, who could predict that Greece would end up as European champions in 2004. I do not, by this, say that I think we will end up as World champions, but no points are given before the match has been played.”

Ferhan Hasani: “Interesting group, attractive and tricky. From a playing aspect, it’s very bad that Spain and Italy fell in our group. However, at the same time, it’s a big privilege and motivation to play against such powers. It’s clear who is who in the group and who is favorite for the top two spots. Albania has been stringing great results in continuum, and the fact that they are very much alive for qualifying in EURO 2016 shows how much they have progressed. Israel is not an easy national team, while Liechtenstein is an outsider in the group, but they should not be underestimated. I say that because doing so can come back to bite you. It’s important for us to try to be at our best, and the fact that we are in a difficult group may prove to be a positive thing. It may lead to the players being more motivated. We shouldn’t lose points with national teams that are at our level, while at the same time we should look to surprise someone on the road, with the goal of finishing as high as possible on the standings.”

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