Tuesday 23 January 2018

Macedonia coach Jonuz believes Irish are 'favourites to qualify'

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

MACEDONIA have arrived in Dublin keen to forget the past and get out with at least a point to boost their Euro 2012 hopes.

Ireland may be "favourites to qualify" in coach Mirsad Jonuz's opinion, but that did not stop him asserting that his team are here to contend and cause their hosts plenty of problems this evening.

All questions about the "I had a Macedonia" T-shirts and the countries' clashes in the mid to late 1990s were sidestepped politely as the former U-21 coach chose instead to talk Ireland up, while holding the line that his team could compete in what he believes is the most open of groups.

And although he praised Ireland for their Premier League class, he reckons Group B is so open that there are plenty of shocks to come, starting this evening.

"We know each other very well," he said. "We know the qualities that both teams have, all the information about the team line-ups is known, so this match is very important for us and Ireland.

"We have well-prepared players, and the atmosphere and expectations are high.

"The group is very close, which is why we hope to be successful tomorrow.

"This is a strong group except for Andorra. That's why every match is difficult. There will be a lot of surprises as these teams are very close."

Goran Pandev was unsurprisingly the topic of discussion at the Aviva Stadium last night as the Inter Milan star dons the international jersey fresh from his match-winning goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

But while Ireland may be targeting the striker, Jonuz was warning that there are plenty more strings to his side's bow.

"Pandev is not playing alone," he said. "There are good players playing with him who have to play for him to give him the ball, to serve him.

"Pandev needs to duel with the Irish defenders because the they will be very strong for the whole 90 minutes," he added.

Irish Independent

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