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North Macedonia, along with Croatia, are the youngest national team on the scene in this tournament. But, unlike their fellow former Yugoslavian members, Macedonia never had any success on a major stage.
This is their first big tournament, and the players were greeted as heroes after a narrow 1-0 win in the play-offs against Georgia.
Austria – Bucharest, Sun, June 13, 5pm
Ukraine – Bucharest, Thur, June 17, 2pm
Netherlands – Amsterdam, Mon, June 21, 5pm
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Macedonia qualified through their performance in the Nations League. After being drawn in the bottom tier of the competition, they won a group including Armenia, Liechtenstein and Gibraltar to earn a play-off spot. They beat Kosovo 2-1 in the semi-final before a narrow 1-0 victory against Georgia in the final.
Igor ‘Mrme’ Angelovski managed one of the biggest clubs in Macedonia, Rabotnicki, prior to his national team role where he won the league once and Macedonian Cup twice. Along with reaching Euro 2020, his greatest success with North Macedonia was a 2-1 win way at Germany in World Cup qualifying back in March.
There’s not too much creative talent in the team, relying mostly on the individual genius of a handful of players such as Goran Pandev, Enis Bardhi and Elif Elmas. Expect plenty of counter-attacking with a strong focus on keeping it tight at the back. Stole Dimitrievski will be in goal, with the back three Visar Musliu, Darko Velkovski and most likely Egzon Bejtulai.
Leeds’ Gjanni Alioski will likely play at wing-back with Dinamo Zagreb’s box-to-box midfielder Arijan Ademi crucial in the centre of the pitch. He will be paired with Bardhi from Levante and in front of them Elmas from Napoli.
The front two should be the legendary Pandev and Aleks Trajkovski. Ilija Nestorovski suffered a knee injury while training with Udinese and will miss the tournament.
Goran Pandev is the ‘football god’ of Macedonia. He holds records as all-time top goalscorer and all-time most caps for the country. He has a club in Macedonia that carries his name, Akademija Pandev, and competes in the top division… need we say anything more!
ONE TO WATCH
Eljif Elmas wasn’t a regular starter for Napoli this season in Serie A, but featured more often in the Europa League. The 21-year-old is a technical player with great vision of play, and always does well for Macedonia. He will again be one of the backbones of the team’s chances.
Here’s all the key data on North Macedonia’s squad.
- Squads and statistics correct at time of data sheet creation.
They will have absolutely no pressure or big expectations as getting to group stage was a monumental achievement in itself. They will probably focus more on not getting embarrassed than anything more adventurous.
While it’s no doubt fantastic for the plucky upstarts to be at the finals in the first place, we don’t see their Euros advantage lasting too long.
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