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Champions League hero out to prove Macedonia have bite

IVAN TRICHKOVSKI moved to Club Brugge for £1.2million in the summer but his recollections of Cyprus will provide his driving force at the National Stadium.

IVAN TRICHKOVSKI led Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia to a last-eight date with Real Madrid in the Champions League and now fancies shocking Scotland at Hampden.

The Macedonian Player of the Year doesn’t just believe in footballing fairytales, he makes them happen.

Last season the unfancied and unfashionable Cypriots disposed of Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, Porto and Lyon to reach the quarter-finals of the game’s biggest club tournament. Now he reckons he can cause a stir on the international scene.

Trichkovski, 25, moved to Club Brugge for £1.2million in the summer but his recollections of Cyprus will provide his driving force at the National Stadium.

He said: “What I learned from APOEL is anything can happen in football. It was an amazing experience, the kind of thing every player dreams about.

“It has given me so much confidence for the future and makes me believe we can attain good results with Macedonia and push to qualify. We know how tough it will be in Glasgow but APOEL were always underdogs.

“We got through the qualifiers in a tight tie with Wisla Krakow and that was where things started. It put us through into a good quality group with Zenit St Petersburg, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk.

“Like this World Cup qualifying group, every team was of a very good standard but there was no clear favourite.

“Even then no one thought we could end up first in the group. That seemed impossible in the beginning but game by game our potential grew and the belief grew.

“It seemed unreal at times but we showed what we could achieve. I scored against Shakhtar away to earn a 1-1 draw in the Donbass Arena and that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“We faced Lyon in the last 16 and that was incredibly dramatic. We got through on penalties, I scored mine, and drew Real Madrid in the quarters.

“We knew that was the end of the fairytale but we had already done so much more than anyone could have imagined.

“Like APOEL, not many people think Macedonia can succeed in this group but I know what can happen.”

If Macedonia can achieve a stunning result and put Craig Levein’s team virtually out of the World Cup reckoning, Trichkovski will no doubt have played a big part. While Serie A star Goran Pandev has long carried the torch for his nation Trichkovski has now emerged a second major star of the team.

Against group favourites and top seeds Croatia in Zagreb four days ago he was superb and almost instigated a remarkable triumph.

Unfortunately, Macedonia switched off for one second after the restart to let former Rangers star Nikica Jelavic head an undeserved winner for the hosts but the performance was one that reeked of danger to Scotland in front of chief scout Mick Oliver.

Trichkovski believes his team are entering an exciting era under positive new boss Cedomir Janevski and said: “We will all try to help the new coach, just like he helps us.

“We all want to improve the standing of Macedonian football.This is a very equal group. Every team has its own qualities and I don’t think there is a favourite.

“For us the ambition is to try to make history. We have never been to a major competition but why not now?

“We know it will be tough in Glasgow but we have to believe. We now have some very experienced players in the team and some exciting young players.

“I feel we are a good group and the team spirit between us is building all the time.”

Trichkovski, however, knows Scotland are going into the game on their own soil as favourites.

Despite slipping against Serbia in their opening game, Levein’s men feel victory tonight can be the launchpad for their own qualification push.

The Tartan Army, so displeased after the stalemate on Saturday, will be back out in force looking to help ignite the campaign and Trichkovski knows his team face a challenge from on the pitch and in the stands.

However, he is also aware that with the home backing comes the expectation and the pressure and Levein and his players are under scrutiny.

Trichkovski said: “Many of the Scotland players operate in the English Premier League so that tells you all about their quality. I don’t want to single any of their players out. They are strong in most departments and to me they are the stronger as a team.

“That is especially the case when they play at home. I think Hampden Park will be a big advantage for Scotland because it is such a famous stadium.

“The spirit of the fans and the players always seems to be united so we know the atmosphere in Glasgow will amazing.

“That is something any opponent has to deal with but we will go there for a good result. No one is thinking we will just turn up and lose.

“Maybe there is not as much pressure on us as some other countries in the group.

“If we can take points in Glasgow then it would be a big psychological boost for us for the rest of the campaign.”

Taken from the Daily Record

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