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Preview: Slovakia - Macedonia

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Slovakia vs MacedoniaSlovakia vs MacedoniaToday, with the away game against Slovakia, Macedonia will start the EURO 2012 qualification campain. Opening game and right away a very tough opponent who impressed in the recent World Cup in South Africa.

Slovakia is a team who waited for a long time to qualify for a major tournament. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Slovakian national team failed to qualify for the EURO 1996, a run that continued for every major tournament until the World Cup in South Africa 2012 where Slovakia eventually managed to gain place directly as group winner. There, in a group with 2006 champion Italy, the always good side Paraguay and outsider New Zealand, for Slovakia was predicted only a small role and a World Cup ending in the group phase. The opening 1:1 draw with New Zealand, and the second round 2:0 defeat by Paraguay, left Slovakia to be given no chance to beat Italy in the last round. But, the Slovaks made the impossible and with the 3:2 victory they went into the next round as second placed team. There they met the later World Cup final round-up Netherlands from whom they lost with 2:1.

On the other hand, Macedonia is still waiting to qualify for a major tournament since it's independence in 1993 from Yugoslavia. On the beggining of the last qualifications for South Africa, especially after the home 1:0 win against Scotland and the good play against the Netherlands despite the 2:1 defeat, everyone in Macedonia expected finaly the team lead by star Goran Pandev to qualify for something. But, again the damned 4th place was the final achievement for Macedonia after few unexpected defeats. Now, the known athmosphere is again around the Macedonian national team. The football fans are expecting a good result in Bratislava and finaly a qualification. But is the national team capable of winning something like that? We shall see starting from tonight.

Macedonia and Slovakia have a well football history when it comes to the games played between the two teams. But, the Slovaks are far more successfull. The first game was played exactly on the same date as today: September the 3rd, year 2000 and was part of the World Cup 2002 qualifications. The game was played at the Tehelné Pole stadium in Bratislava and Slovakia won with 2:0. There are no players in the macedonian national team from that game, but there is one in the Slovak team, the 34-years-old defensive midfielder Miroslav Karhan who back than played the whole game. Slovakia also won the return game, trashing Macedonia with 5:0 when part of the Macedonian defense was Igor Mitreski. The the next qualifications, the one for the EURO 2004, both teams were again drawn in a same group, and again Slovakia was the better team winning 2:0 in Skopje, in a game where Igor Mitreski, Goran Pandev, Velice Sumulikoski, Ilco Naumoski and Aco Stojkov took part. Eventually in the fourth game against this central European nation, Macedonia managed to score a goal and even to take a point as the game in Žilina ended 1:1 with Igor Mitreski, Goran Pandev, Ilco Naumoski and Slavco Georgievski playing.

03.09.2000 Slovakia - Macedonia 2:0 match report
07.10.2001 Macedonia - Slovakia 0:5 match report
29.03.2003 Macedonia - Slovakia 0:2 match report
10.09.2003 Slovakia - Macedonia 1:1 match report

But thats all history and we hope it wont repeat tonight. The game starts at 20.30 CET and will be played at the Pasienky stadium in Bratislava, home of the football clubs Slovan and Petržalka with a capacity of 13.295. Macedonian tv MTV will broadcast the game live.

The Slovakian national team coach Vladimír Weiss called 22 player for this and for the game against Russia four days latter.

Goalkeepers
Ján Mucha - Everton, England
Dušan Kuciak - Vaslui, Romania
Dušan Perniš - Dundee United, Scotland

Defenders
Radoslav Zabavník - Mainz 05, Germany
Martin Škrtel - Liverpool, England
Peter Pekarík - Wolfsburg, Germany
Tomáš Hubočan - Zenit, Russia
Kornel Saláta - Slovan
Mário Pečalka - Žilina

Midfielders
Miroslav Karhan - Mainz 05, Germany
Marek Hamšík - Napoli, Italy
Marek Sapara - Ankaragücü, Turkey
Zdeno Štrba - Xanthi, Greece
Dušan Švento - Salzburg, Austria
Miroslav Stoch - Fenerbahçe, Turkey
Vladimír Weiss - Rangers, Scotland
Kamil Kopúnek - Saturn, Russia
Juraj Kucka - Sparta Praha, Czech

Strikers
Róbert Vittek - Ankaragücü, Turkey (injured, won't play today)
Filip Hološko - Beşiktaş, Turkey
Erik Jendrišek - Schalke 04, Germany
Tomáš Oravec - Žilina

From the World Cup in South Africa, only defenders Marek Čech, Ján Ďurica, Martin Petráš, midfielder Ján Kozák and striker Martin Jakubko aren't called up, while striker Stanislav Šesták had to cancel due to injury.

Macedonia will most probably start with the following 11: Nuredinoski; Sikov, Popov, Noveski, Mitreski; Sumulikoski, Despotovski, Georgievski; Naumoski, pandev, Trickovski. Aco Stojkov won't be available due to injury, while Tofiloski, Alimi and Todorovski will watch the game from the stands.

Referee of the game will be Claudio Circhetta from Switzerland, with the help of Beat Hidber and Charles Helbling, while fourth official will be Cyril Zimmermann, all from Switzerland as well.

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