England aims to qualify in style in Montenegro

AP, Thursday 6 Oct 2011

England coach Fabio Capello is promising a win-only mindset against Montenegro in a European Championship qualifying match Friday, despite the arrest of Wayne Rooney’s father

England's Players (Photo: AFP)

The Group G leaders need only one point to qualify for Euro 2012, while Montenegro can overtake England if it wins on Friday and at Switzerland on Tuesday.

Rooney’s father and uncle were among nine men arrested in a Scottish football betting scam.

“I found him relaxed and calm and there’s no problem for the game tomorrow,” Capello said, confirming that he would start the striker but was still mulling who to partner with him in attack. “It would be a big mistake to play for the draw. We need to play to win. I think players understand this and will play the way always play when we’re away from England.”

England failed to qualify for the last European Championship four years ago when it lost to Croatia 3-2 at Wembley in its final game.

England has won all three of its away matches so far in qualifying for Euro 2012, and Capello has stuck to his policy of favoring younger players, with Manchester United pair Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones included for the Montenegro trip alongside in-form Tottenham fullback Kyle Walker.

Capello said he was likely to field Jones or Walker—who are both uncapped— to replace injured right-back Chris Smalling.

England captain John Terry said his teammates were “expecting a tough game in a quite hostile atmosphere,” and said Rooney’s form would not be affected by Thursday’s news.

“Wayne’s focused on the game tomorrow. We all realize the importance of that,” Terry said. “He’ll always be fully focused on the football field so that’s what important to us. I think when you’re on the pitch on the training pitch you can switch off from anything.”

Montenegro only started playing football as an independent nation in 2007, but have since risen the world rankings to an enviable position for a country of 625,000 people, reaching 16th place last year.

Midfielder Marko Cetkovic described Friday’s game as the most important in the country’s brief international football history.

“England is surely the best team in the group. But we also have our qualities. We have two of three players who can score in every game,” the Poland-based player said. “I think it will be very difficult for England to get the three points, very difficult. England (plays well away) but they have never played here. The crowd will be very important for us.”

Montenegro surprisingly fired coach Zlatko Kranjcar following a loss to Wales and brought in Branko Brnovic to replace him.

The new coach has injury problems, with Marko Basa and Stevan Jovetic doubtful, and his team selection could be influenced by eight players facing suspensions if they are booked against England.

Brnovic said he would rest Basa, along with regular starters Nikola Drincic and Milan Jovanovic, to guarantee him more options against Switzerland.

“I hate having to rest players, but I have no choice. With a full squad, we are able to beat England, but even with three players out we can still surprise them,” Brnovic said. “We fear no one. We have a fighting spirit in our genes, but I also know the quality of our players.”

Brnovic indicated he would field a defensive line up Friday, relying heavily on Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic.

“England has four world-class goal scorers, and (Wayne) Rooney is one of the best players around,” Brnovic said. “But their defense also has Mirko to worry about.”

Montenegro held England to a 0-0 draw at Wembley a year ago, and may hope the visitors can be lulled into underestimating them again.

South Korea-based striker Dejan Damjanovic said he’s hoping the crowd at Podgorica’s 12,000-seat City Stadium, currently being renovated, could also put the visitors off their game.

“There’s no track and the crowd is very close to the pitch,” he said.“(Last year) England thought the game would be easy, and they played pretty badly, to be honest, and we had an unbelievable game.

“This time, England will take us totally seriously.”

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