Montenegro’s rise as a football nation has been both fast and surprising. Formed following the independence of Montenegro from Serbia, it has been surprising that it has established its self so quickly when Goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric was the only Montenegrin player in Serbia & Montenegro’s 2006 World Cup squad.
Their first qualifying task was for the 2010 World Cup, in which they finished 5th of 6. A respectable finish for a newly created national side. They picked up some respectable results in the campaign with a 2-1 win over Georgia and a 0-0 draw at Croke Park against Ireland. They proved to be a difficult side to beat, only suffering three defeats due out the campaign.
In qualifying for the 2012 European Championships they proved themselves capable of challenging to make the tournament by finishing second in the group behind England. They surprised many in Europe by managing to squeeze two points from England after being dismissed as a walkover. They picked up a point from Wembley in a 0-0 draw. By finishing second they qualified for the playoffs where they suffered a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Czech Republic, it proved to be one step too far.
Montenegro again drew England for the World Cup 2014 qualifying group along with Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and San Marino. Dismissed largely by England, there was a failure to recognise the threat they entailed. With two of Serie A’s finest strikers in Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic Montenegro have one of the finest front-lines in European international football. Arguably better than England’s current crop. Not only is the front strong, the back line also has some established players. Stefan Savic now plies his trade for Fiorentina following a move from Manchester City where he didn’t quite find his feet, but at only 22 he still has time to establish himself as Montenegro’s top centre back.
World Cup qualification is now a reality with Montenegro, currently leading the group by two points. They could not have hoped for much better and after earning four points from Poland and Ukraine their attention can turn to England for the crunch match in Podgorica. A game which Montenegro will fancy themselves winning, with England’s seeming ability to crumble and the absence of Jack Wilshere. Montenegro could win their most important game to date.
Even if they don’t qualify for the World Cup,it won’t be the last anyone hears of Montenegro. With the Euro 2016 finalists extended to 24, the likelihood is they will make their international tournament debut in France. Potentially they could go far, with three years to go and taking into account their rapid rise. It is not inconceivable that they could make the last 8.