Tonight, at 20.45, Macedonia will face Belgium in the qualifications for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Many things in the group will become clearer in the next 5 days as Macedonia plays twice against the same opponent in Belgium, home and away. With 4 points in Group A, 6 less that co-leaders Belgium and Croatia, Macedonia needs a good result if they want to be more than participants in the qualifiers.
Even before the beginning of the qualifications, Belgium stood as one of the biggest favorites to reach Brazil. They haven’t been at a World Cup since Korea/Japan in 2002, led by than captain Marc Wilmots (now the national team manager), but they possess one of the most exciting teams in Europe with a generation comprised of many talented youngsters. Failing to qualify for a EURO since they co-hosted it with the Netherlands in 2000 is just another proof of how hungry they are to qualify for Brazil.
Macedonia already lost twice against the other presumed favorite in the group, Croatia. Even the solid play and hard fought matches weren’t enough for the Macedonians to get at least a point. Now, the results will need to be different to stay alive. A home defeat will deal a serious blow, even if only half the matches would have taken place. Despite the improbable circumstances, Macedonia is going for a win in Skopje. Ivan Trichkovski, the other day, said that Macedonia will even go for a win on the road game in Belgium. It is great to be optimistic, but will Janevski’s boys be able to prove that on the field?
For the home side, due to a yellow cards suspension, right back Dragan Georgievski and central midfielder Nikola Gligorov are unavailable. The latest speculation is that Ferhan Hasani, who usually plays is a left winger, will be put in Gligorov’s place next to Muhamed Demiri, while Aleksandar Todorovski will start for Georgievski. The other choices for Gligorov’s role are attacking midfielder Darko Tasevski and central midfielder Ostoja Stjepanovikj, but the latter lacks international experience. Luckily, there are no problems with injuries at this point.
Wilmots has a few problems of his own for Belgium. The visitors will probably be without captain Vincent Kompany who is injured, but he did participate in yesterday’s training. Also, Steven Defour is doubtful. What is sure is that if Kompany is out, then Thomas Vermaelen will captain the Belgian side.
Macedonia: Pachovski; Todorovski, Grncharov, Noveski, Lazevski; Demiri, Hasani, Pandev; Trichkovski, Ibraimi; Jahovikj.
Belgium: Courtois; Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Van Buyten, Alderweireld; Witsel, Fellaini, Dembélé; Hazard, De Bruyne, Benteke.
So far Macedonia and Belgium have met just twice, during the qualifications for EURO 1996. A 1:1 draw was played in Belgium, while Macedonia suffered a 5:0 defeat in Skopje, but the game was played behind closed doors due to a match ban.
The game will kick-off at 20.45 CET in the National Arena Philip II of Macedon in Skopje. Deniz Aytekin from Germany will be the main referee, while his two assistants will be Guido Kleve and Stefan Klupp. Fellow countryman Marco Fritz will serve as the fourth official.