Tonight in Turin, for the first time at the Grande Torino Stadium, Italy will face Macedonia for the penultimate day of Group G of the World Cup 2018 qualifiers.
In today's football, the name Macedonia rhymes with Goran Pandev, the man who is more than an ambassador for the former Yugoslav Republic. Pandev, who plays in Serie A with Genoa, is now 34 and has been one of the protagonists of the Triplet (the victory of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the same season) of the Inter Milan managed by Jose Mourinho in 2009-10.
I have interviewed him in an exclusive for Tribal Football before the clash against Italy, to speak about the match, the situation of Macedonian football, the outlook and even about Serie A.
What do you think about the next match against Italy? You are already eliminated and Italy needs a point to ensure a place in the playoff. How will you face Italy?
It's a very hard match, Italy is the best team of our group after Spain. Of course they are favorite, we will try to take a good score. But what we hope is to play a good match
Italy is like a second home to you. Does this match mean something special, something particular to you?
Yes, of course: it's been so much time that I'm in Italy, my family lives here and I'm very happy, I really feel at home. This is a very special match for me and I hope Macedonia will be able to do good things.
Macedonia have won two matches in this campaign and I think the perspective is to win the next one against Liechtenstein. How would you judge your road through the qualifiers to WC 2018?
We are doing well in these qualifiers: we have lost really too many points in the last minutes of some matches, but we are a very young national team and I'm sure that in the next years we will be able to do much better than this.
In the first match against Italy you have played very well, putting them under big difficulties. More regrets or satisfaction for that match?
We were very happy to face a big side like Italy and we played an amazing match. After the referee blew the final whistle, we were so disheartened because we could have come out of that match with some points; but we have showed a great performance.
Who are the key players of Italy, in your opinion?
Italy are full of top players, full of champions. Their defense is really strong, there are many good players but I don't want to tell a name in particular because I like them all.
What do you think about Giampiero Ventura?
Ventura is a good coach, he is doing a good job with Italian national team. It's very important for them to go to the World Cup and I hope that Ventura will work out to obtain this qualifications, because he deserves it.
One question about Italian Serie A: what's your opinion about VAR, the video assistance referee?
It' a new thing and we are getting used to it. Surely it helps a lot, we hope that in the next years it will give us many satisfactions. VAR can really help referees but even players.
How far is Macedonia from competing to qualify for a World Cup?
We have many young players very talented and skilful and I think that in the future they will have to try to reach an European Cup or a World Cup. There's a young generation incoming and they are able to do very good things, as they have showed in their Euro Cup. We have a nice future in front of us.
Last question: who do you consider as the new Pandev in Macedonia?
There are many young good players, I hope that many of them will be able to reach the top European leagues as I have done and do well there.