Meet the men from Montenegro standing in the way of England reaching Brazil 2014
, and the man advantage allowed Montenegro a last minute equalised through Andrija Delibasic.
Brnovic wasn’t able to guide his team through the play-offs, losing 3-0 on aggregate to the Czech Republic, but they’ve been on an eight-match unbeaten run since.
Playing career: Brnovic (right) in action for Yugoslavia in a 2007 match with Switzerland in Basle
How it stands: The Group H table entering the game
This included an impressive 1-0 win in Ukraine in the third round of qualifying that ranks among the country’s best results. They have also drawn 2-2 with Poland, stuffed San Marino 6-0 and 3-0, and triumphed 1-0 with 10 men in Moldova the other night.
A midfielder, Brnovic represented Yugoslavia 27 times during his playing career, scoring three goals. In his club career, he represented FK Partizan Belgrade, helping them to back-to-back national championships, and Espanyol in Spain for six seasons between 1994 and 2000.
Those with exceptional memories for this kind of thing may recall that Brnovic played in three matches for Yugoslavia at the 1998 World Cup in France, as they reached the last 16.
Dismissed! Brnovic's first match at the helm was the 2-2 draw with England in October 2011 that saw Wayne Rooney sent off
Known as ‘Bonja’, experienced 28-year-old goalkeeper Bozovic plays for Hungarian side Videoton and has 30 caps for his county. He has been in good form of late, as Montenegro have kept four consecutive clean sheets in their World Cup qualification campaign.
Poleksic would be a complete unknown but for his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal involving Liverpool and his club side Debrecen, of Hungary.
In June 2010, Poleksic, who was once linked with a move to Portsmouth in the Premier League, was banned from football for two years for failing to report a telephone call in which a criminal gang offered him money to fix Champions League matches against Fiorentina and Liverpool.
He continued his career at Debrecen, albeit as second choice, after his ban ended and also has 23 caps for Montenegro.
30-year-old third choice with two caps to his name, currently playing for Nea Salamis Famagusta in Cyprus. At one point played in Belgium with Standard Liege and more recently had an ill-fated spell with Anorthosis Famagusta when his poor performance in a Europa League qualifier with Georgian team Dila Gori led to crowd disturbances.
Pleased as punch: Goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic salutes the travelling fans after his crucial saved earned a 0-0 draw at Wembley in October 2010
Not to be confused with the Serbian striker of the same name who plays for Anderlecht. The Montenegrin Jovanovic, 29, is a defender who joined Red Star Belgrade last summer and has won 33 caps for his country. Prior to this, Jovanovic had played in Austria, Romania and Serbia.
Like Jovanovic, Pavicevic was a founding member of the Montenegro national team when they played Hungary in March 2007 (having hitherto been known as Serbia and Montenegro). Another nomad, the 32-year-old has played in Serbia, Germany, Greece, Cyprus and, of late, Israel. He was at Maccabi Tel Aviv until November last year, but is presently with cross-city rivals Hapoel.
31-year-old left back who is usually on the bench, Bozovic made his 30th appearance for Montenegro in the 1-0 win over Moldova on Friday. After five years with Rapid Bucharest, he recently departed for Russian Premier League newcomers Mordovia Saransk.
Among the better known Montenegro players, centre-half Basa is a regular for French side Lille and played in five of their six Champions League group matches this season. With their depleted central defence, England will have to be careful of 6’ 3” Basa’s potency from corners and free-kicks.
After an uncertain start when Basa made a habit of not showing up for international duty, he has since become a regular starter and has 23 caps.
Commanding: Centre-back Marko Basa in action for Montenegro against San Marino in an earlier World Cup qualifier
Best known for being the target of Wayne Rooney’s ire on the last occasion the two sides met, centre-half Dzudovic is a likely starter having been rested in Moldova on Friday night.
The 33-year-old, who plays for Russian Premier League side Spartak Nalchik, claimed over the weekend that he didn’t provoke the England frontman into lashing out and even spoke up for him at the UEFA disciplinary hearing.
‘I did nothing to provoke him. We didn’t say a single word to each other during the match,’ he said.
‘This was his moment of weakness. He is human, it can happen to anyone.’
Manchester City fans will remember 22-year-old centre-half Savic, who had a short spell at the club during the 2011-2012 season following a 6m move from Partizan.
Although occasionally solid during his 20 appearances, mistakes meant he was never likely to replace Vincent Kompany as first choice. He conceded the penalty that allowed Liverpool to gain the first leg advantage in the League Cup semi-final and also gifted Jermain Defoe the equaliser in the league match at the Etihad.
Now at Fiorentina, Savic spoke over the weekend of the welcome England will receive in Podgorica: ‘It is always a hostile atmosphere here and we don’t fear anyone. We just need to be focused and I think the result will come.
‘We have played two games against England and got two draws – now I think maybe it is time for a win.’
English connection: Defender Stefan Savic played for Manchester City during the 2011-2012 season
Left-back who is a relative newcomer to the Montenegrin set-up, Volkov has played for no less than five Belgrade-based teams. Possessing dual Serbian and Montenegrin citizenship, the 26-year-old opted for the latter after Serbia ‘showed no interest’ in him. Nonetheless, he has spent most of his life playing and living in the Serbian capital Belgrade.
Defender with one cap to his credit, Igumanovic plays for the Montenegrin side Rudar Pljevlja, who finished second in the national league last season.
Recent graduate from the Under 21 set-up, defender Kecojevic also has one cap to his name and plays his football in Turkey for Gaziantepspor.
One of the most experienced players in the squad, Vukcevic may be remembered by English fans for his two years at Blackburn Rovers. Despite a dire and ultimately unsuccessful battle against relegation from the top flight, Vukcevic found first team opportunities limited last season following a 3m move from Sporting Lisbon.
He was given a ticket out of Ewood Park on January transfer deadline day this year and has wound up at Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv, where he seems likely to see more games.
In and around the senior international set-up for nearly a decade, Vukcevic has 41 caps and two goals for Montenegro and five for Serbia and Montenegro before that.
Slide: Simon Vukcevic, the former Blackburn player, tries to win the ball from Ashley Cole
Zverotic scored one of his three international goals against England in that 2-2 draw in November 2011, one of three in his five years with the national team. The 26-year-old right-sided player plays for Young Boys in Switzerland and scored a memorable late equaliser against Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League group stage this season.
Veteran midfielder who has carved out a career in Germany, initially with Eintracht Trier and Mainz, and latterly with Bundesliga strugglers Greuther Furth. Has 31 caps for Montenegro.
Defensive midfield player who often comes on from the bench, Novakovic has played for Russian team Amkar Perm for five years and has 21 caps for his country.
25-year-old player for Dacia Chisinau in Moldova, Krkotic was on the bench in his adopted homeland the other evening, but didn’t come on for a first cap.
Celebration: Elsad Zverotic (left), Stefan Savic (centre) and Vladimir Bozovic mark the 1-0 win over Moldova on Friday
The closest Montenegro have to a household name, Juventus striker Vucinic once had his creative flair likened to Vincent Van Gogh by a Serie A coach. Brilliant and infuriating in equal measure, England will be hoping it’s the less inspired Vucinic that turns up on Tuesday night.
He’s in decent form though – a fortnight ago, he was combining with Juve midfielder Claudio Marchisio to score a lovely goal against Bologna, and on Friday he won a tricky match in Moldova when his side were down to 10 men.
Former Juventus legend Pavel Nedved sums the 29-year-old up neatly: ‘I love watching him play because he is a genius, a total genius. He can be infuriating with the way he disappears from games.
‘There are times when he is almost invisible and it drives you mad. But then he’ll do something amazing that lifts you out of your seat and you love him for it.’
Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott, you have been warned…
Mad: Vucinic celebrates in his pants after scoring a goal for Montenegro against Switzerland
Born in the city of Niksic, Vucinic was talent spotted and transferred to Italian side Lecce in 2000, consistently scoring 20 or more goals in a season as they swapped between Serie A and B.
He then switched to Roma in 2006, scoring 64 goals in 202 matches for the club in his five seasons there. Juventus bought him for around 12m in 2011 and Vucinic won the title in his first season.
Averaging a goal every two games for Montenegro, Vucinic has been performing his national duty in winding up Wayne Rooney during the build-up.
Good record: Vucinic has 14 goals in 30 international appearances
‘There is no doubt that Wayne Rooney is one of the best strikers in the world, but we know from the last time England played here that he can sometimes play with a hot head,’ he said.
‘Our fans will not forget the red card he received and I am sure they will let him know. It is an intimidating place to come and if England want to have any chance then Rooney will need to keep a calm head.
‘He is a good player but it has been proved over the years that you can get a reaction out of him. England would have no chance with 10 men and I’m sure their coach will be telling them that.’
Linked at the moment with Arsenal and Manchester City, the other half of Montenegro’s deadly attack is Fiorentina’s curly-haired Jovetic.
Jovetic, 23, is on record as saying that the Premier League is ‘the top of the football world’ and Tuesday’s match against England will be something of an audition for him.
Heaven sent: Stevan Jovetic celebrates a goal for Fiorentina against Bologna this season
So far, he has 12 goals for his club this season, including a brace against Inter Milan last month. He also has 10 in 21 games for Montenegro since making his debut in that inaugural match against Hungary in 2007.
Scorer of the last minute equaliser the last time these sides met, Delibasic plays for Rayo Vallecano in Spain, for whom he has four league goals this season. He filed his boots against San Marino earlier in the qualifying campaign, with four in two matches, but is likely to be on the bench against England.
Mental: The scenes after Montenegro scored their equaliser against England in the Euro 2012 qualifier in October 2011
Back-up striker who plays in Croatia for Dinamo Zagreb. Last season, Beqiraj was top scorer in the Croatian top flight with 15 goals in 28 appearances, becoming the first foreigner to achieve that feat. The 24-year-old has won 18 caps and scored three times for his country.
A long trip home for Damjanovic, who plays out in Korea for FC Seoul. He’s a prolific scorer in the K-League, with 94 goals in 146 appearances over the last five years. Scored the winner in the earlier World Cup qualification match against Ukraine, one of three strikes for Montenegro.
Favoured in Moldova alongside Vucinic and Jovetic, Red Star frontman Kasalica, 24, is a fairly recent graduate from the Under 21 team and has only five caps to his credit so far. Scored his only goal to date in the 2-0 friendly win over Latvia before the start of the qualification campaign.
Chosen men: The Montenegro line-up
ENGLAND NEED TO WIN THE AERIAL DUELS
With England's first-choice central defensive partnership unavailable, Roy Hodgson will be nervous about our chances of winning the aerial battles.
Montenegro are a team packed with six foot plus players and, unsurprisingly, top the World Cup ranking for headers won.
England, by contrast, are 35th in the same ranking, having won just 46 per cent of their aerial contests.
Cautionary tale: Andrija Delibasic scored with an equaliser the last time the sides met
Watch the skies: Aerial duel statistics from the current World Cup qualifying campaign. Source: Opta
Montenegro's fearsome defenders will take some beating in the air – Marko Basa is 6' 3″, Miodrag Dzudovic is 6' 5″ and Stefan Savic is 6' 2″ – and so Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe need service in to feet.
If they manage to work a shooting opportunity, first choice goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic is 6' 5″.
Up front, in addition to their myriad other qualities, Vucinic (6' 1″) and Jovetic (6' 1″) will give Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott an uncomfortable time from crosses.
Corners are a concern too, with three of Montenegro's goals in the qualifying campaign coming from them.
Set piece danger: The statistics on corner conversion from the current World Cup qualifying campaign. Source: Opta
PODGORICA CITY STADIUM
Despite only being about the size of Southend United's Roots Hall ground, England will face a hostile reception at the Podgorica City Stadium.
Holding 12,000 spectators, the home of FK Buducnost Podgorica was scene of the 2-2 draw between the sides in November 2011, when home fans raised the atmosphere, Wayne Rooney was sent off and England let slip a two-goal lead.
Compact: The 12,000-capacity Podgorica Stadium which will host the match on Tuesday
Rustic: One of the turnstiles at the stadium, where about 1,300 England fans will be in attendance
There were chaotic scenes at the end, too, as home fans poured onto the pitch to confront the 1,100 travelling England contingent.
'At our home nobody takes points off us easily. Who knows what might happen if the weather is not good and the pitch will not be in perfect shape It could help us,' said Dejan Damjanovic.
Hostile: Home fans celebrate on the pitch and goad England supporters after the 2-2 draw in 2011
Aside from that 2-2 draw already alluded to, the only previous meeting between England and Montenegro in their current guise was a drab 0-0 draw at Wembley earlier in the same Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Fabio Capello's side dominated possession in the October 2010 encounter but Wayne Rooney was subdued and was denied by goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic from snatching all three point at the end.
Montenegro's Milan Jovanovic struck the crossbar from long range with only seven minutes left.
Denied: Kevin Davies, a sub, tries to turn the ball home under pressure from Marko Basa and goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic in the 0-0 draw at Wembley in October 2010
Dejection: England trudge off after the drab goalless draw in the Euro 2012 qualifier
The line-ups that night:
England: Hart, Glen Johnson, Ferdinand, Lescott, Ashley Cole, Adam Johnson, Gerrard, Barry, Young (Wright-Phillips 74), Rooney, Crouch (Davies 69)
Montenegro: Mladen Bozovic, Basa, Jovanovic, Djudovic, Savic, Vukcevic, Zverotic, Boskovic (Beciraj 82), Novakovic (Kascelan 62), Pekovic, Djalovic (Delibasic 77)
England played Serbia and Montenegro once, a 2-1 win in a friendly at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester in June 2003 in which Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole scored.
MONTENEGRO'S REMAINING FIXTURES
June 7 Ukraine (H) September 6 Poland (A) October 11 England (A) October 15 Moldova (H)