Group Seven of the Euro 2012 tournament is wide open, and Montenegro are now top the table after winning three out of three, having beaten Switzerland in Podgorica. Should England (with a game in hand) win of course, this would shed a whole new light on the group, and put England in an extremely favourable position to qualify.
If you know your history…
England have never played Montenegro in a competitive match – and the closest you could possibly get to a meaningful past encounter would be way back in November 1987, when England thumped Yugoslavia 4-1 away in the Euro ’88 qualifying campaign.
Although much has changed since then, the consistent production of promising talent from those parts has not. Microstates never have a good footballing reputation, but Montenegro are not complete garbage like Andorra or San Marino – they are focused and play attractive and swift football, remaining completely unfazed by a hostile atmosphere.
Wayne Rooney vs Milan Jovanović
After his stellar performance against Switzerland (despite all the personal problems) all eyes will now be on Manchester United’s Rooney to deliver the goods as England face a stern, and far from easy test against Montenegro. There are no instantly recognisable household names for Montenegro, but Jovanović is one man who has plenty of experience at hand.
The 27-year old has previously been linked with a hat-ful of Premier League clubs, but is currently with Spartak Nalchik of the Russian Rosgosstrakh (Premier League), and has in fact played for no less than ten other clubs in an eleven year professional career.
Steven Gerrard vs Simon Vukčević
Like Liverpool’s Stevie Gerrard, Vukčević is an attack-minded midfielder who can be utterly lethal when his mind is properly focused. Vukčević has previously played for Partizan Belgrade (2003-2006), and has plied his trade Sporting Lisbon since 2007, giving him arguably one of the more cultured footballing backgrounds within the Montenegro squad.
Thus far, the Montenegro midfield has looked sharp and unified, which will give their counterparts in the England squad a lot to think about in the pressure cooker that will be Wembley Stadium.
John Terry vs Mirko Vučinić
He is the captain who doesn’t take any prisoners, already scoring timely winners against Wales and Switzerland in qualifying. He has scored on average almost every other game for Champions League contention perennials Roma, having made 121 appearances since 2006, and like Vukčević, Vučinić has previously been linked with several Premier League clubs.
He can also play on the wing with his strong dribbling and impressive speed. The England defence will certainly have to be on their toes if they are to avoid trudging off with red faces, six points adrift of top spot.
The Chelsea captain will have to be on top of his game.
England 2 – 1 Montenegro
Skybet are offering odds of 5/1 for Steven Gerrard to open the scoring in this potentially crucial match. Worth a flutter?
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