Preview: Macedonia vs. Lithuania

Friendly: Macedonia vs. LithuaniaMacedonia faces Lithuania later today in a friendly which serves as the last test before September’s two 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Croatia and Scotland, both on the road.

After a year in charge of Macedonia, John Toshack was dismissed as manager earlier in the week.  Instead, the national team will be led by former national team player Goce Sedloski, one of Toshack’s assistants on the previous staff and the only player to compile 100 caps for Macedonia, on an interim basis.  It will be his first serious challenge as Goce aspires to become manager one day.  Besides serving as an assistant under Toshack for the past couple of months, the 38-year-old Sedloski is also an assistant coach for Austrian side Mattersburg, one of his former clubs during his playing career.

“The atmosphere between the players is great, as is the health situation.  I expect in the match against Lithuania for our team to play solid and build on what we showed during the two friendlies in Portugal this past May.  I don’t have much information about our opponents and that’s why, among all else, we must be focused to play our game.  We have freed Goran Popov to withdraw since he is in the process of completing a transfer.  We won’t make many changes to the tactics as the most important thing is to give maximum effort and for the players to follow their tasks and duties as this is the last test before the start of the World Cup qualifications.” – Sedloski was quoted on FFM’s web site.

Meanwhile, for captain Goran Pandev, it’s important to win this game so there will be a positive mood heading into the two qualifiers next month.  Pandev said, “It’s a friendly, but still an important game.  Lithuania is our last opponent before the beginning of the qualifications for the World Cup.  We must play at a high level.  It’s important to give everything we have, with such approach we have nothing to lose.  With a win, we can have some positive momentum heading into the qualifier against Croatia.  With the interim coach Sedloski, we know each other for a number of years, we believe in his qualities.  We will play for him as well.”

Macedonia and Lithuania, so far, have played on two occasions, both taking place 15 years ago as part of the qualifications for the 1998 World Cup in France.  The Lithuanians were better, winning both games, but neither Lithuania nor Macedonia managed to qualify for the tournament.  Goce Sedloski played the full 90 minutes in both of those matches.

06.09.1997 Lithuania – Macedonia 2:0 match report
11.10.1997 Macedonia – Lithuania 1:2 match report

There is one change in the Lithuanian team.  The coach, Csaba László, won’t be able to rely on attacker Andrius Velička who didn’t arrive due to problems with his visa.  Macedonia is also missing one player, as already mentioned, from the original squad in Goran Popov who was allowed to withdraw so he can complete his reported loan move to English Premier League side Stoke City.

The friendly kicks-off later today at 20.30 CET at the National Arena Phillip II of Macedon with the game set to be broadcast live on MTV.  The referee assigned by UEFA will be Halis Özkahya from Turkey.

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