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Who is national team quality?

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My columnMy columnAfter the dismal showings against Belarus and Australia, let's have a blunt discussion about which players should be part of the national team moving forward.

Macedonian football is in dire straits right now. The fans have completely turned on the players and coaches, causing a friction that's making things very difficult. The fans are sending a loud statement by not attending the home matches, and the people that are present often voice their displeasure by booing whenever something bad happens. That leads to players pressing and it leads to a toxic situation.

However, all of us that write or visit this site want to see things turned around. Manager Boshko Gjurovski is very much on the hot seat and his future is being debated by the board members of the Macedonian federation. Gjurovski has been in charge since November of 2013, but the results of the national team have gotten worse and worse. He has tested many players, but Gjurovski has not been able to settle on a particular starting lineup or formation. That has been due to various reasons, such as injuries or the coach not being pleased with the play of certain individuals. However, as the manager, he is being judged on wins and losses. The losses keep piling up and it's not like the play is promising either.

With that being said, it is important to have a blunt discussion about which players possess the right talent and character to get Macedonia out of this funk. How many players do you believe possess the national team quality? Below is my opinion only. Be sure to state your view in the comments section.

Goalkeepers

Tome Pachovski - I believe only Pachovski is national team quality when it comes to the keepers. That is saying something because Tome had a rocky start with the national team. Early on, he often looked shaky (who can forget the terrible goal he conceded versus Norway several years ago), but he has gotten better with experience. He has become a stable presence back there, becoming captain.

Full-backs

Daniel Georgievski - Modern full-back who can play on the right or left side. Very good athlete who has good stamina. Plays with a Australian mentality which means he is not afraid of success, something that unfortunately brings down many countries in the Balkan region. Will need to improve his marking and concentration since he does make sloppy passes at times that can lead to good chances for the opponent.

Stefan Ristovski - Possesses better technique than Georgievski, but has similar shortcomings in his marking abilities. Doesn't appear to be a willing defender and has concentration lapses. His best position may be in right midfield/right wing.

Ezgjan Alioski - Smaller than Georgievski and Ristovski, but Alioski is a feisty guy who annoys opponents. That's a good thing if he is on your team. He has good quickness, speed and plays with a lot of determination. He should transfer to a top Swiss division club this summer.

Central Defenders

Vanche Shikov - The best of the bigger CB's that Macedonia has. However, his form is going downhill. Shikov is approaching 30 and Austria Wien fans don't seem convinced in his abilities. However, he still puts together respectable performances for Macedonia.

Darko Velkovski - Of all the U21 players that have been promoted under Gjurovski, Velkovski has done the best. He has great technique and is not afraid of the moment. Needs to become more physical since he is still more of a finesse player, but he is on his way to becoming a very good player. Expect him to secure a solid transfer this summer.

Defensive Midfield:

Arijan Ademi - One of the biggest gains by Macedonia in recent times. The Dinamo Zagreb manager swears by him and was sad to see Croatia not give him a chance, thus losing him to Macedonia. Strong marker and much better going forward than he is given credit for. He is a complete midfielder.

Uros Matic - Matic has become a bench warmer at NAC Breda under their new manager, but he is still a valued commodity. He may just need a change of scenery. NAC Breda fans rated him last year before he saw dip in form this season. Matic is another guy who can be lined up in an offensive or defensive position in midfield.

Attacking Midfielders/Wingers

Agim Ibraimi - Maribor fans told us that Ibraimi has been in bad form for their club this season, especially in league play. However, that may have to do with motivation as Agim is now 26 and surely wants a bigger test than the Slovenian league. However, Ibraimi has a good left foot that can strike at any time.

Aleksandar Trajkovski - Similar to Ibraimi at this time. He has been up and down for Zulte Waregem, leading to his playing time fluctuating. Trajkovski is a free agent this summer, so look for him to join a new club. Trajkovski has been Macedonia's best player over the past year.

Ferhan Hasani - Playing great for Brondby since the 2nd half of the season started. Hasani is also a free agent this summer, so he is playing for a new contract. Brondby fans are chanting for club management to sign him. That will likely happen given his play. Although he is injury prone, Hasani is a very good dribbler who is ascending as a player.

Besart Abdurahimi - Another Croatia-born player that chose to represent Macedonia. Abdurahimi is a tricky player known for his dribbling abilities and packing a good shot from distance. He was mainly responsible for Macedonia's lone win in these qualifications (won a penalty and scored a late winner versus Luxembourg).

Center-Forwards

None

So, by my count, that is only 12 players that I deem to possess national team quality. Now, obviously a team needs at least 20 players on a respective squad, so some additional guys will need to round up the roster (see below). Again, the list above is strictly my opinion, but I wanted to have this discussion to get your thoughts on this question.

Explanations on exclusions:

Goalkeepers - I did not include Martin Bogatinov because he continues to have problems judging long free kicks and crosses. He doesn't know when to come out or when to stay in goal. He does have good agility and reflexes. Meanwhile, Kristijan Naumovski is the opposite. He's just not very agile and athletic, often allowing bad goals. Also, prior to now, he has mostly been a backup with his club teams. As for the young keepers like Stole Dimitrievski, Dejan Iliev and Damjan Shishkovski, they need to face better competition to become potential options on the senior squad. All of them play in lower leagues (Dimitrievski and Iliev) or serve as the third keeper (Shishkovski) on their clubs. Darko Tofiloski is not an option since his club situation is still not settled. Obviously, a backup is needed to Pachovski, so that will likely continue to be Bogatinov and/or Naumovski, although neither is good enough to start.

Full-backs - The domestic league doesn't offer any help here. Goran Popov is a disaster at this stage of his career who has no discipline and does whatever he wants. He views himself to be bigger than Macedonia. Vladica Brdarovski is a good athlete, but his biggest problem is instincts. He just doesn't have a good feel for the game. Aleksandar Todorovski and Aleksandar Lazevski are both effort players, but they are very limited athletically. Kire Ristevski and Ardian Cuculi lack quickness to play the full-backs position as both of them are actually better built to play inside in central defense. However, neither guy has done well while playing for the national team. Can't judge Leonard Zuta because I have not seen enough of him.

Central Defenders - I did not include Vladimir Dimitrovski above because I have just not seen enough of him. The media in Greece has praised his play, but I will need to see more games before judging him. Aleksandar Damchevski is actually very intriguing because he is a physical specimen. Has good size/speed combo, but his biggest issue is his positioning. That will improve with experience. He needs to overcome his injury and find a new club this summer. However, he has a chance to become an important player for the national team if he shows the proper development. Meanwhile, Daniel Mojsov is very slow yet he also lacks strength. That is a very bad combination. Mojsov is another guy who is an effort player, but he is very limited athletically. Gjoko Zajkov is the perfect build for a CB, but he needs to play better opposition to be considered. Once he gets a chance by the first team of Rennes, then he would immediately become a national team mainstay. Him, Damchevski and Velkovski are the three most talented center-backs, but Damchevski and Zajkov need to solve their club status. Bojan Markoski, meanwhile, didn't really show much to warrant consideration in the future.

Defensive Midfielders - Muhamed Demiri is not bad, but he is also nothing special. Plus, with him approaching 30, he is no longer a key national team piece. Artim Polozhani and Dushko Trajchevski played with good effort in the recent games, but both are very limited players. However, they showed more than Stefan Spirovski who is a complete disaster. He is now a bench warmer at Vardar too. To think he actually started that Spain match last year. Shaking my head. Nikola Gligorov is another guy who has been indifferent with his play, but the national team should move on given his age. Ostoja Stjepanovic is just returning from a torn ACL injury, but he is 30 and hasn't shown much during his caps. Plus, who knows if he will ever be the same after such a devastating injury that kept him on the sidelines for nine months. Maybe Trajchevski is the best option to provide cover for Ademi and Matic at this position, given his age and the determination that he plays with. Veliche Shumulikoski, the second most capped player in Macedonia's history, also plays defensive midfield, but he is not in the national team picture anymore.

Attacking midfielders/Wingers - Mario Gjurovski does not seem interested in playing for Macedonia any longer, so he should be removed. He said he was injured, but then played for Muangthong United this past Saturday. That's not how you behave toward a national team. Muarem plays on the wing for Qarabag, but he is another guy who is an effort player. He doesn't do anything that stands out. He lacks pace and defenders don't fear him. Macedonia has some talented youngsters here in David Babunski, Daniel Avramovski and Enis Bardhi, but they still need more seasoning. Babunski and Avramovski need more playing time with their clubs, while Bardhi seemed overwhelmed this past weekend. He was largely at fault for the first goal by Belarus, so he's still not ready right now. He needs to play for the U21 side in the foreseeable future. Winger Valmir Nafiu is another interesting prospect, but he needs further playing time for APOEL. Needs to show that he can be a sustained starter over a period of several months, not just have one good game here or there. Similarly to Bardhi, Marjan Radeski also doesn't seem ready for the senior squad. He needs further development and a transfer to a better league. Dejan Blazhevski requires little thought. He's awful and we saw that this past week. He has only found success in the domestic league. The same applies for Nikola Jakimovski who quickly became a bench player at Varese after they saw what he could do (or can't do to be more precise). Dejan Peshevski, on the other end, is an intriguing option. I have been reading good things about him in Slovenia.

Center-Forwards - This position is a mess. Adis Jahovic, Jovan Kostovski and Krste Velkoski don't have what it takes to be center-forwards that can make the difference. There is a reason that Jahovic and Kostovski play in second divisions, while Velkovski has been in bad form for Sarajevo and looked lost versus Belarus. That also comes after terrible displays in the other qualifiers over the past year. Hopefully the experiment of him being a regular call-up ends moving forward. Mirko Ivanovski did well as a CF at CFR Cluj, his former club, but he now plays in attacking midfield for Videoton. He is just not an attacking midfielder and Mirko is also not in very good shape given his limited playing time over the past couple of months. Ivanovski has mostly played on the wing for Macedonia, but predictably that has not gone well. Like it was mentioned, CF is an absolute mess. Maybe the Macedonian federation can recruit Marko Markovski or somebody else that would be eligible. The domestic league options, guys like Filip Ivanovski and Bazhe Ilijoski, are also awful since neither puts any fear in quality opposition. Plus, those two players have already been capped by the national team and proved to be mediocre. Guys like Ivan Trichkovski and Aco Stojkov were former regulars, but their careers have gone downhill. Trichkovski has not played in months, while Stojkov has not impressed at Skenderbeu, based on out talks with journalists from Albania.

So, my question is how do you guys see it? How many players would you consider national team quality? List them below (*) and give me a brief explanation why you feel that way.

* Please no name calling in the comments section. That's childish and not necessary.

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