NETHERLANDS VS MACEDONIA, Amsterdam, 01/04/09
Macedonia’s first-ever UFWC title match could hardly be tougher. The Netherlands have won all four of their 2010 World Cup Qualifiers, are ranked third in the FIFA rankings, fifth in the UFWC rankings, and of course are the current UFWC title holders.
The Macedonians are ranked 59th by FIFA, and have no UFWC experience. Not that they are mugs. Macedonia beat all-time UFWC champions Scotland 1-0 in September, and four days later were only narrowly defeated 2-1 by the Dutch in Skopje. But a trip to Amsterdam is likely to prove very difficult.
Small mercy for the Macedonians is that the Netherlands will be without the injured Robin Van Persie. The Dutch, however, can can call upon the likes of Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel to replace Van Persie alongside Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Macedonia coach Srečko Katanec does have a fully-fit squad to select from. Among Macedonia’s players to watch are Lazio striker Goran Pandev, and Goran Popov, who plays for Heerenveen in the Netherlands.
For those unfamiliar with Macedonia, the country can be found in Eastern Europe on the Balkan peninsula, bordered by Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. It was declared independent of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Although commonly known as Macedonia, the country’s name is sometimes preceded by the abbreviation FYR (for Former Yugoslav Republic), pending resolution of a naming dispute with Greece. FIFA records refer to the country as FYR Macedonia.
Should the Netherlands retain the title, the next UFWC title match will see them take on Iceland in June. If Macedonia can take the title, they play Norway in the same month.