Montenegro travels to Prague on Nov 11th to play the first leg of their Euro 2012 playoff showdown against the Czech Republic at Sparta Stadium with the return leg taking place four days after at Stadion Pod Goricom in Podgorica. Amazingly, it will be the first time the two teams have met each other.
The Czech Republic waited until the last minute to earn their playoff spot when they managed a 4-1 win in Lithuania on the last day of the qualifying campaign. They ended up second in the table in Group I with 13 points, finishing two up on Scotland, who lost their last game 3-1 away to Spain.
Montenegro clinched second place in Group G with a game to spare. They had a chance at taking first place, but only managed a 2-2 home draw against England on Oct. 7th. However, Wales beat Switzerland at home 2-0 the same day which guaranteed Montenegro second spot. Montenegro then went out for their last game in Switzerland and were duly beaten 2-0, but it didn’t really matter as the Swiss couldn’t catch them. England topped the group with 18 points followed by Montenegro at 12 and Switzerland at 11.
Montenegro goes into the playoff series with a pretty healthy squad as Branko Boskovic, a midfielder with DC United of the MLS, has rejoined them after being sidelined with a knee injury back in April. Manager Branko Brnovic said Boskovic is back training and deserves to be selected to the team since he was a regular selection before suffering his injury. Petar Grbic was dropped from the squad to make room for him. The only player who seems to be ailing at the moment is Marko Basa, but he should be ready to play.
The Czechs will have one of their top players back in Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal. The midfielder missed his country’s last game in Lithuania as he was sidelined with a groin injury. Manager Michal Bilek will be a bit short of players though as midfielder Tomas Hubschman will miss both of the games against Montenegro because of suspension and defender Tomas Hubnik will have to sit out the first game for the same reason. Striker Milan Baros is suffering from a muscle injury, but should be ready for action on Friday. Bilek said he asked defenders Tomas Ujfalusi and Jiri Jarosik to join the squad, but they turned him down.
Dejan Savicevic, the president of the Montenegro Football Association, said he was happy his country drew the Czech Republic instead of Portugal. In fact, he said he would have been happy facing Ireland or Croatia too, as long as it wasn’t the Portuguese. He feels his side is strong enough to beat the Czechs and that forwards Mirko Vucinic of Juventus and Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina are among the best in the world.
He feels the key to beating the Czechs will be to stop Rosicky, who he calls their best playmaker. He said Rosicky’s a great midfield leader and his team will have a better chance if they can keep him in check.
Montenegro may have jinxed themselves by wishing to play the Czechs instead of Portugal and could end up paying for it. The Czechs have the skill to take both games, but will need to work hard for it. They should win this game, but a draw would suit them as well.
The current odds for the game at Sportsbook William Hill are 7/10 for a Czech Republic victory and 7/2 for a Montenegro win with a draw listed at 9/4.
Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Chelsea), Jaroslav Drobny (Hamburg), Jan Lastuvka (Dnipropetrovsk)
Defenders: Theodor Gebre Selassie (Liberec), Roman Hubnik (Hertha Berlin), Michal Kadlec (Bayer Leverkusen), Zdenek Pospech (Mainz), Daniel Pudil (Genk), Jan Rajnoch (Ankaragucu), Tomas Sivok (Besiktas)
Midfielders: Petr Jiracek (Plzen), Daniel Kolar (Plzen), Marek Matejovsky (Sparta Prague), Milan Petrzela (Plzen), Vaclav Pilar (Plzen), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)
Forwards: Milan Baros (Galatasaray), David Lafata (Jablonec), Tomas Pekhart (Nuremberg), Jan Rezek (Anarthosis Famagusta)
Goalkeepers: Mladen Božović (Videoton FC), Srđan Blažić (Panetolikos GFS)
Defenders: Marko Baša (LOSC Lille Métropole), Milan Jovanović (PFC Spartak Nalchik), Stefan Savić (Manchester City FC), Radoslav Batak (FK Mogren), Savo Pavičević (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC), Miodrag Džudović (PFC Spartak Nalchik), Luka Pejović (Jagiellonia Białystok)
Midfielders: Elsad Zverotić (BSC Young Boys), Milorad Peković (SpVgg Greuther Fürth), Mitar Novaković (FC Amkar Perm), Vladimir Božović (FC Rapid Bucureşti), Mladen Kašćelan (ŁKS Łódź), Nikola Drinčić (FC Krasnodar), Marko Ćetković (Jagiellonia Białystok), Simon Vukčević (Blackburn Rovers FC), Branko Bošković (DC United)
Forwards: Mirko Vučinić (Juventus), Radomir Djalović (FC Amkar Perm), Andrija Delibašić (Rayo Vallecano de Madrid), Stevan Jovetić (ACF Fiorentina), Dejan Damjanović (FC Seoul), Fatos Beqiraj (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)