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Preview: Macedonia - Ireland

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Macedonia vs IrelandMacedonia vs IrelandGame 6 of the EURO 2012 qualifications. Ireland is coming to the Arena Philip II to face Macedonia and in search for a revenge from the past. Can the Irish top the table with 3 points from Skopje? Or maybe Macedonia can surprise and get back in the game for Poland and Ukraine?

Tonight's game is a decisive for Macedonia. With a win the Red Lions will stay in the race for the top two positions and can still hope for going on the EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, while a defeat will mean that any hope is already gone. On the other hand, Ireland is coming for at least a draw, but the 3 points are main target for the Boys in Green. The first game in Dublin ended with a 2:1 win for the Irish.

Ireland has a bad memory of Skopje. "I had a Macedonia" is a well known saying among the Irish. If an Irish tells to another person "May you have a Macedonia", it is even a curse. Actually, they had it twice. The first time they lost with 3:2 in the qualifications for the World Cup '98 and than finished 2nd in the Group before eventually losing in the play-off. The aftermatch of that game was that the Irish squads had a yellow jersey bearing the words "I had a Macedonia" for the player voted as the worst performer in training sessions and they never ever again played in orange shirts. The second time was in the very next qualifications, those for the EURO 2000. With a win Ireland would have topped the Group, but a goal scored in the last moments by Goran Stavrevski sent the Boys in Green in the play-off where they were once again eliminated. They surely have a big motive for revenge!

Their national team coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, already announced the starting 11. As rumoured, newcomer Simon Cox will start up front ahead of Shane Long and alongside veteran Robbie Keane who is still fighting to prove his fitness. He received a hefty blow to his ankle in clash in training with Damien Delaney ahead of the team's departure. Shay Given is back in the goal, Stephen Kelly, Darren O’Dea, John O’Shea and Kevin Kilbane in the back, Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and Stephen Hunt in the midfield while Robbie Keane and Simon Cox will be the biggest threat to the Macedonian goal.

Good news for the home side as well. After the cancellations of Bajram Fetai and Aco Stojkov due to injuries, Goran Popov recovered in time and will start the game. Today Macedonian national team coach Mirsad Jonuz revealed the starting 11: after his performance in the game in Dublin, Edin Nuredinoski will start from the bench as Martin Bogatinov will be between the posts. The defence will be with Nikolce Noveski and Boban Grncarov as central defenders, Vance Sikov right and Goran Popov left. Velice Sumulikoski, Muhamed Demiri and Filip Despotovski as midfielders with Goran Pandev as trequartista, while Ilco Naumoski and Ivan Trickovski will be up front. The two debutants,Stefan Ristovski and Blagoja Todorovski will be benched, but it won't be a surprise is one of them actually starts the game.

The game will kick-of tonight at 21.30 CET at the National Arena Philip II of Macedon. It will be the first game on the new stadium and the fans want a start of a new era with a win. Referee of the game will be Florian Meyer from Germany. May they have a third Macedonia! :)
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