With the excitement following the good showings in the first two qualifiers subsiding after the home defeat to Croatia, FYR Macedonia could be in for a difficult task as they take on youthful Serbia side. The Eagles recorded a heavy defeat to Belgium despite completely outplaying their opponents and they have no choice but to try and win in Skopje in order to get back in contention for a place in Brazil.
Major selection headache for Janevski
Having never got even close to qualifying for a major tournament, FYR Macedonia had little to hope for when they were placed in the same group as Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Scotland and Wales in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The team, nonetheless, showed a lot of potential in away games against Croatia and Scotland, but their inexperience ended up costing them dearly as the Lions could pick up just one point from the two games. Cedomir Janevski’s side were then expected to build on the good showings at the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers when they play host to Croatia in front of the packed Filip II Makedonski Stadium, but the team once again proved they cannot really cope with the pressure and were beaten 2-1. The atmosphere in the national team has gotten much worse after the aforementioned defeat and the fans seem to have lost faith in the players, which is going to be a major issue. Given that two very important players Goran Pandev and Vanche Shikov are missing out, FYR Macedonia clearly face an uphill task against very good Serbia side.
Team’s most influential player Goran Pandev is suspended, while centre-back Vanche Shikov is sidelined through injury. High-profile players Goran Popov and Daniel Georgievski will be dropped following the disappointing showing against Croatia.
Despite taking over the reigns just few months ago, Sinisa Mihajlovic has already done a lot of good for the Serbia national team. The talented coach quickly created a great atmosphere in the team and introduced a number of talented youngsters, but it appears this side will need some more time to start playing to their potential. The Eagles enjoyed a bright start to the World Cup qualifiers, with the goalless draw in Scotland followed by 6-1 triumph over Wales, but the 3-0 home defeat to Belgium was seen as a major blow to the players’ confidence. Nevertheless, Sinisa Mihajlovic and his players can be satisfied with the fact they were by far the better team during the opening hour, but the profligacy in front of goal ended up costing them precious points. Even so, for the first time after quite a while, the team were not booed from the stands despite the heavy defeat and it is more than evident the players haven’t lost the faith in their own abilities. It is for that reason that Serbia can be trusted to play another good game against severely weakened FYR Macedonia, and I certainly wouldn’t bet against them winning in Skopje, especially as the visitors should have a big support in the stands in neighbouring FYR Macedonia.
Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is unlikely to make major changes to the starting line-up, and the most important thing is he has no injury worries.
FYR Macedonia are really low on spirits after taking just one point from first three qualifiers and the absence of players like Pandev, Shikov and Popov is likely to seriously damage their chances of getting something from this match. Serbia, on the other hand, are playing really well at the moment and they look a good value for money to win this match.
Our prediction: Away win
Odds: 2.15 (23/20)