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EURO 2012 Preview: Russia - Macedonia

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A moment from last year's Macedonia vs. Russia game; photo: daylife.comA moment from last year's Macedonia vs. Russia game; photo: daylife.comMacedonia faces Russia today in what will be the debut for new manager John Toshack.  His first game in charge will be against a difficult opponent in Russia who has won all three meetings against Macedonia up to this point.

Toshack named a squad of 19 players for the Russia game and today he reveiled the starting 11 with a 4-2-3-1 formation.  The starting keeper will be Martin Bogatinov, the defense will consist of Daniel Georgievski, Vance Sikov, Nikolce Noveski, and Goran Popov from right to left.  The two defensive midfielders will be Velice Sumulikoski and Muhamed Demiri, the three creative players behind the lone striker will be Ivan Trickovski on the left, Goran Pandev in the trequartista role, and Agim Ibraimi on the right.  Finally, Mirko Ivanovski will start up front as the lone striker instead of Samir Fazli who was speculated in the media.  Mirko does play the lone striker role for his club team Arka Gdynia.

Speaking to FFM's website, Goran Pandev stated, " We are awaiting a tough road game against a very quality national team in Russia.  With a new coach, we have new ambitions.  We trained good and are prepared for this match.  We have nothing to lose in this game so we need to play free, good, and why not, maybe surprise Russia.  I want to bring joy to the Macedonian fans with a goal in this game and at the same time, show my abilities before the fans of Napoli as I expect the new season to be my year.  Napoli has ambitions on three fronts (Serie A, Champions League, Coppa Italia) and I expect a good season where we will battle for the league title along with Inter, Milan, and Juventus."

As previously mentioned, Macedonia and Russia have met three times up to this point and Russia has won all three meetings.  During the three meetings, Macedonia has been outscored 6:0.  Macedonia and Russia already played a EURO 2012 qualifier back in October of last year in Skopje and the visitors recorded a narrow 1:0 victory thanks to an early goal by Aleksandr Kerzhakov.  The other hero for Russia during that game was keeper Igor Akinfeev who saved a penalty by Ilco Naumoski in the 2nd half to help Russia get the win.  However, Akinfeev recently suffered a serious injury and he will not play during today's game against Macedonia.  He is considered one of the best keepers in the world so Macedonia caught a break by not having to face Akinfeev.  Russia is expected to start Vyacheslav Malafeev from Zenit at keeper for the injured Akinfeev.

Past meetings:
15.11.2006 Macedonia - Russia 0:2 match report
08.09.2007 Russia - Macedonia 3:0 match report
12.10.2010 Macedonia - Russia 0:1 match report

The match will start at 18:00 CET and it will be played at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.  UEFA has appointed Bülent Yıldırım from Turkey to be the referee for this match.  After a few days of panic among the Macedonian fans who wanted to watch the game, the national television network MTV announced earlier today that the game will be shown.  That was after several days of MTV getting blasted by fans for not having the game on their schedule earlier in the week but they had a change of heart and will be broadcasting the game live from Russia.

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