Euro 2012 qual. - England v Montenegro: Key battles

Tue, 12 Oct 12:34:00 2010

We pick out the vital battlegrounds as England face a buoyant Montenegro side in Euro 2012 qualifying at Wembley.

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Rio Ferdinand v Mirko Vucinic

Vucinic's bizarre celebration after scoring the winner against Switzerland means he is best-known in this country as the man with the shorts on his head. However, anyone who takes the 27-year-old lightly could be embarrassed. The Roma striker has scored 11 goals in 21 games for his country, revelling as a lone striker having been played on the wing for much of his club career. A tricky brand of physique and flair, he could catch the returning Ferdinand with his pants down. The England skipper must guide Joleon Lescott through a potentially tricky 90 minutes. Lescott has been exposed at international level, but with John Terry, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Phil Jagielka all injured, Fabio Capello must press his sixth-choice centre-back into action.

Gareth Barry v Simon Vukcevic

Montenegro manager Zlatko Kranjcar has introduced a 4-3-2-1 'Christmas tree' formation that allows Vukcevic and Radomir Djalovic to exploit space behind lone striker Vucinic. Vukcevic was hailed as the 'next big thing' when he emerged with Partizan Belgrade, achieving such popularity he was awarded the number one shirt. However, his club career has stalled amid accusations of unprofessionalism, and he now finds himself as a fringe player for Sporting Lisbon. However, Kranjcar's formation plays to his strengths, namely a sweet left foot, technical ability in abundance and a flair for the unexpected. Barry's form has picked up since he was exposed so ruthlessly by Germany at the World Cup, and the Manchester City man will have to be alert to ensure the threat of Vukcevic is neutralised.

Marko Basa (pictured) v Wayne Rooney

The Lokomotiv Moscow man will be one half of the central defensive duo tasked with stopping Rooney and Peter Crouch. Basa is a relative newcomer to the Montenegrin side, having made his debut last year. However, he won his first international caps in 2005 when he played three friendlies for Serbia and Montenegro. Basa was eligible for either country when they split, and turned down call-ups from both teams before eventually plumping for Montenegro. He has been ever-present in qualifying, and will tackle Rooney whose ankle and state of mind will be under close scrutiny at Wembley. The Manchester United's strike against Switzerland was his only from open play this season and Capello will hope for a similar response at Wembley.

Peter Crouch v Mladen Bozovic

An unheralded 26-year-old, goalkeeper Bozovic has emerged as a key man for his country in Euro 2012 qualifying, and has yet to concede a goal in three matches. The 6' 5" Bozovic surprisingly left Partizan Belgrade for Hungarian side Videoton in the summer, but bigger clubs could come calling if he continues his assured form at international level. Crouch's goalscoring record for England is nothing short of exceptional, with 21 goals in 40 games, even though he has started less than half of those. He has scored in each of his last five appearances at Wembley, averaging a goal every 55 minutes in those matches. However, the Tottenham man again finds himself with something to prove - Darren Bent would have started ahead of Crouch if not for a groin injury.

England/Montenegro preview


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