This would be my starting lineup

What would be your squad for the Slovakia game?

This would be my starting lineupWith the EURO 2016 qualifier against Slovakia inching closer, who should be included in the first ever squad that new manager Ljubinko Drulović will be tasked to create?

Ljubinko Drulović takes over a Macedonian side that badly needs structure, guidance and stability. Can he deliver? Many people in his native Serbia have praised him, but it’s now time to put up or shut up. He needs to demonstrate that he is worthy of that praise in now managing a country that is in a state of flux.

It is abundantly clear to anybody who follows Macedonian football that our beloved country lacks depth. The domestic league is in poor shape, many foreign based players who were key guys on the national team don’t play regularly, or at all, for their clubs, and now no U21 guys will be available as well. Since the U21 team is beginning a new qualifying cycle next month, some of the talented youngsters will not be counted on for the Slovakia qualifier. Therefore, the depth issues become even more problematic.

Who should see their name on the squad? I decided to make my selections, and would also ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below. The hope is to have a healthy discussion and see how we feel on certain players.

Before I get started, a friendly game before the Slovakia match does not seem likely. The official website of FIFA still lists Equatorial Guinea as an opponent on June 9, but that friendly has been canceled. If that exhibition was still a go, the Macedonian federation would have said something by now. However, that hasn’t happened. So, in making your player selections, assume that you only have to prepare for one game (against Slovakia) as opposed to two.

My player selections:

Tome Pachovski – Vardar, Macedonia
Filip Gachevski – Bregalnica, Macedonia

Stefan Ristovski – Latina, Italy
Daniel Georgievski – Melbourne Victory, Australia
** Vanche Shikov – Austria Wien, Austria
Vladimir Dimitrovski – Kerkyra, Greece
Daniel Mojsov – Lierse, Belgium
** Ezgjan Alioski – Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Milovan Petrovikj – Rabotnichki, Macedonia

Arijan Ademi – Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia
Aleksandar Trajkovski – Zulte Waregem, Belgium (for now)
Agim Ibraimi – Maribor, Slovenia
Ferhan Hasani – Brøndby, Denmark
Besart Abdurahimi – Lokeren, Belgium
Artim Polozhani – Shkendija, Macedonia
Muarem Muarem – Qarabağ, Azerbaijan
* Uroš Matić – NAC Breda, Netherlands

Jovan Kostovski – OH Leuven, Belgium
Krste Velkoski – Sarajevo, Bosnia
Bazhe Ilijoski – Rabotnichki, Macedonia

* Note: Matić would be on my squad if his situation is settled by FIFA before the Slovakia game.
** Note: Vanche Shikov and Ezgjan Alioski were added after gathering information on Bojan Markoski.

Before explaining my picks at the different positions, it is important to note that Ljubinko Drulović prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation. That’s what he said at his introductory press conference. He would like to have a consistent formation, so he is likely to go with that look.


Goalkeeper: Tome Pachovski remains the best option at keeper. Kristijan Naumovski has seen very limited playing time for Dinamo București, and Martin Bogatinov has been without a team for months. Neither is at the level of Tome as both Kristijan and Martin have shortcomings. As for Pachovski’s backup, it came down to Filip Gachevski or Darko Tofiloski, but I chose the former. Gachevski is in better form and deserves his spot ahead of Tofiloski who recently returned to action for Košice.

Defense: I am bound to be wrong here. Drulović named left-back the biggest concern at his press conference, so that can’t be good news for Daniel Georgievski. However, I absolutely believe he is the best option to start at that spot. Georgievski, although naturally a right-back, plays left-back for Melbourne Victory and his performances this season have been solid. Sure, he makes some careless passes at times, but he plays with tremendous energy and passion, running non-stop up and down the left flank. Daniel can back-up Ristovski if something happens to him at right-back, while I called up Milovan Petrovikj to back-up Georgievski at left-back. Petrovikj plays there for Rabotnichki. He is another guy that displays constant energy and gives you everything he has. Milovan is not as talented as Goran Popov, but Popov’s mindset and his shortcomings in attention to detail concern me.

As for central defense, national team mainstay Vanche Shikov was dropped for the time being. He hasn’t played for Austria Wien in nearly three months. So, based on the available players (not much quality to choose from), I went with Bojan Markoski, Daniel Mojsov and Vladimir Dimitrovski.

UPDATE: I have made several changes to the defense after gathering more information. I read in Cypriot newspapers that Bojan Markoski, a free agent this summer, is currently in Vietnam to negotiate with an unnamed club. Based on that, I immediately remove Markoski from the team. I will insert Vanche Shikov in his place. Furthermore, the more I thought about it, the full-back position is thin. Thus, I added Ezgjan Alioski to the squad as well. He will serve as insurance if something unexpected comes up. These changes, however, do not affect my starting lineup.

Midfield: In defensive midfield of the 4-2-3-1 formation, I would field Arijan Ademi and Ferhan Hasani. The former is a no brainer, while the latter has shown that he can absolutely play there. Brøndby fans have written to me that Hasani has been fielded more and more in central midfield, and he has excelled there. Dropping a little back at defensive midfield should be no problem to Hasani. Behind them I would have Uroš Matić and Artim Polozhani. Matić is a question mark since we still don’t know whether FIFA will make him eligible, while Polozhani gets a spot on my team based on his play in the Belarus and Australia games. He performed well and another plus is that Polozhani can play either defensive midfield or center-back. So, in case of injury, he can step in at either position. As a reminder, Polozhani has been fielded in central defense lately for Shkendija.

In attacking midfield and on the wings, you would have the starting trio of Agim Ibraimi, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Besart Abdurahimi. Ibraimi is starting to get in better form with Maribor, while Trajkovski and Abdurahimi will need to maintain their form heading into the Slovakia game. Muarem, who can play in attacking midfield or on the wing (as he does for his club), would serve as the backup. The former manager, Boshko Gjurovski, quickly gave up on Muarem. Furthermore, Matić (if he is cleared) can play in attacking midfield as well. He has been fielded there at times by NAC Breda.

Attack: This was the most difficult call since I’m not enthused with many of the attacking options. Goran Pandev is terribly out of form right now, so he is not an option. Krste Velkoski is a player that I have criticized quite a bit, but he is in much better form at this time. He had no business being on the national team back in March for the game versus Belarus (out of favor at Sarajevo), but things have improved for him since the Bosnian club changed managers.

When it comes to Jovan Kostovski and Adis Jahovikj, I only chose Kostovski. Jovan actually has the perfect build for a center-forward (strong and attacks headers), but he is lacking in many other areas on the pitch, especially in the ground game and combining well with his teammates. As for Jahović, I have never been high on him and he burned a lot of bridges based on how he handled his dismissal after his dust-up with Daniel Georgievski. I don’t see anything changing concerning his status within the national team, even with a new manager. Then, my final pick came down to Bazhe Ilijoski or Dejan Blazhevski, but I chose the former. Blazhevski was dismal in his performance against Belarus and Australia, showing he is not a national team caliber striker. Ilijoski might not be much better, he’s also had his chances, but I guess he’s the lesser of two evils. However, the hope is that he will not be needed against Slovakia.

A bigger look at my starters

How do you guys feel about the squad? Also, don’t forget to name your squad, so we can discuss different scenarios. I look forward to that debate, and let’s keep it civil.

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