"A night to remember" reads one headline in Thursday's editions of the Skopje papers; "Rhapsody in yellow" goes another as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reflects on a sensational performance in the national team's 3-0 friendly win against Denmark in Skopje.
Captain Goran Pandev, Agim Ibraimi and Nikolce Noveski scored in the first 25 minutes as Cedomir Janevski's side stormed towards a third successive home victory, this time against opponents ranked 23rd in the world by FIFA. "This was without doubt the best first half we've played in our history," said Janevski, whose team beat Serbia 1-0 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in October before overcoming Slovenia 3-2 in a December friendly.
"Before the match I was a little concerned because a lot of our players are not up to full match speed," added Janevski, who took over as FYROM coach last August. "However, they all showed that with good organisation and discipline we can compete against the strongest sides. We are making progress in our game, step by step, and I'm pleased with that.
"We started the match with a great tactical display," continued the 51-year-old. "We knew Denmark like to keep possession, so we were aggressive from the first whistle and we attacked their goal. Even more satisfying for me is that the goals came from pre-planned and well-executed attacks, which we had worked on in training."
Denmark fielded a strong side in Skopje – Nicklas Bendtner the only notable absentee – and coach Morten Olsen made no excuses for their showing. "I take responsibility for this," he said. "It was not good enough on my part. We tried a formation in midfield with three skilful players, but it didn't work out on a pitch like that. I still believe we have a good football team."
FYROM, meanwhile, must prove their credentials at home to Group A leaders Belgium in their next qualifier on 22 March. That match will have particular significance for Janevski, who spent a chunk of his playing career in Belgium, returning to coach Club Brugge KV to Belgian Cup success during a brief spell in 2006/07.
"Belgium is my second home and my family live there, but there is no room for emotion in football," he said. "I'm manager of FYROM now. I was born here and will do everything I can, together with my players, so that we are ready for Belgium. However, I'm warning everyone – this victory must not prompt us to lose our heads: we have to remain grounded."
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