Preview: Scotland vs. Macedonia

Scottish and Macedonian players argue during their last game in 2009; photo: UEFA.comMacedonia visits Scotland in the second match of the 2014 World Cup qualifications, a team they also faced during the 2010 qualifications as well.

The unlucky 1:0 defeat away in Croatia has already been forgotten.  It’s time to move on to the next game.  Macedonia now faces another resilient opponent in Scotland.  It’s an important game for both sides, but especially for the home side.  Manager Craig Levein is under heady pressure from the Scottish public as anything less than a win could result in his potential dismissal.

Macedonia, although it put in a good performance against Croatia, still left Zagreb without a point.  The Macedonians will look to reverse that in today’s match, also hoping that Scotland would underestimate the quality of the players.  Maybe Scotland isn’t a world power like Croatia, but they are still ranked 50 places ahead of Macedonia in the last FIFA ranking list (Scotland #47, Macedonia #97), and are always tough to beat in front of their passionate fans.  The Scots have failed to qualify for a major tournament since their appearance at the 1998 World Cup in France, so they are hungry for success, as is Macedonia.

Chedomir Janevski debuted on Macedonia’s bench in the Croatia qualifier with a loss, but his tactics and style of play made the fans content.  The players finally showed some discipline, planning, hunger and determination.  But, that all also leads to more pressure to achieve a good result as playing solid but losing will only be tolerated for so long.  All of the players are ready, no one is injured.  As was reported earlier, Aleksandar Trajkovski, who didn’t play against Croatia, was sent to the U21 squad, while Ostoja Stjepanovikj didn’t travel to Scotland due to visa issues.  Veliche Shumulikoski is available after serving the final game of his red card suspension in the Croatia qualifier.

On the other hand, the Scottish squad is facing some serious problems.  Their best keeper, Allan McGregor, is injured as is his substitute in Matt Gilks.  It is unknown whether one of them will be fit enough for the Macedonia match.  David Marshall is available at the position, but Levein decided to call up another keeper in Craig Samson from domestic side St. Mirren.  Another problem that Levein is facing is that the fans want young striker Jordan Rhodes to be given the start over veteran Kenny Miller who was kept quiet in the Serbia match several days ago.  However, Levein insists that he picks the team, not the fans: “If every time the fans start shouting for a player and I put him in because they want him on, we’d might as well not have a manager and let the supporters pick the team.  Jordan Rhodes is a really good player but he untested at international level.” Levein told the Daily Record.

After facing former Dynamo Kyiv teammates Ognjen Vukojević and Niko Kranjčar in the Croatia qualifier, Goran Popov will now face his new teammate in West Bromwich Albion, James Morrison.  “I didn’t see him on transfer deadline day.  The squad was training on the Friday morning and then went home to rest ahead of the match against Everton, while I arrived in the evening.  So this will be the first time I have actually met him and I hope we can become friends at West Bromwich.  It would be good if we could travel back down to England after the match, but first we have to be opponents and do the best for our countries.”  Popov said for the Daily Record before adding: “If we don’t play well in Glasgow, then we will get nothing.  We have to be strong and clever.  I know how difficult it will be against Scotland, but we have a new coach and a new belief about the squad.  We know Scotland will be favorites but that doesn’t always matter too much in football.  Just look at West Bromwich beating Liverpool 3:0 on the first day of the season.”

For Mirko Ivanovski, who will wait for his chance from the bench, Scotland will be a harder side to play than Croatia.  “But our opponent (Croatia) were not as good as they can be – certainly not as good as they showed at Euro 2012.  When you play against a team ranked 10th in the world, you expect to learn a lot of lessons.  With Croatia playing as they did on Friday, you learn nothing.  So Scotland at Hampden is going to be a much tougher test than Zagreb.  The Scots have a very good team and their players are used to playing at a high level.  Scotland can pass well but they also run hard and fight for every ball.  Based on my judgment of how Croatia played against us and how I expect Scotland to be at their own stadium, I believe Glasgow will be a tougher night.  Although we don’t want the same result, we definitely hope to take the performance we had in Zagreb into Hampden.  If we do, than I’m sure we can get a goal and some points.  We have nothing to fear.  It doesn’t matter what the scoreline is at the end if you don’t take any points.  We’ll attack and try to get something. That is the tactic of our coach.” Ivanovski stated for the Daily Record.

Previous meetings:

World Cup 2010 qualifications:
06.09.2008 Macedonia – Scotland 1:0 match report
05.09.2009 Scotland – Macedonia 2:0 match report

The Scotland vs. Macedonia match gets underway at 21:00 CET on Tuesday at the Hampden Park stadium in Glasgow.  Sergey Karasev from Russia will be the main referee, while his two assistants will be Anton Averyanov and Tikhon Kalugin.

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