England 'scared', says Montenegro coach Brnovic
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AFP) –
Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic has raised the stakes ahead of his side’s World Cup qualifying showdown with England by claiming that Roy Hodgson’s team are anxious about the game.
Montenegro approach Tuesday’s match two points above England at the top of Group H and could seriously compromise English hopes of automatic qualification if they win.
Brnovic claimed England were worried about the state of the pitch at the Podgorica City Stadium but said an unfavourable playing surface would be more damaging for his team.
“I’m reading statements from the English players about the way the pitch will look,” Brnovic told a press conference on Monday.
“As far as I know, the English have always favoured long passes and I can’t see why they are complaining about this.
“We, with Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic, or England? It supports the fact they are more scared of this game than we are. They are also intimidated by our fans and I don’t see the reason why.
“We do not under-estimate or over-estimate any team. We have a high regard for the England team but more so for our own qualities.”
Brnovic dismissed suggestions that Montenegro’s players would target England striker Wayne Rooney, who was sent off for kicking out at a defender on his last visit to Podgorica in October 2011.
The match finished 2-2 and sealed England’ qualification for Euro 2012 but the subsequent ban picked up by the Manchester United star meant he missed the first two matches of the tournament in Ukraine and Poland.
“As far as I know, Rooney was the one who kicked our player, not vice-versa and I know both Jovetic and Vucinic always suffer strong kicks but they never complain,” he said.
“I can say such English legends and also their journalists are trying to resort for excuses for what will happen tomorrow (Tuesday). Everything seems to bother them.”
Captain Mirko Vucinic echoed Brnovic’s sentiments about Rooney.
“It will not be our tactics to make him lose his temper,” said the Juventus striker.
“It will be in our favour if he is given a red card but we will not be doing anything to provoke him or make him lose his temper.”
Brnovic also claimed that England’s defensive injury problems would play into Montenegro’s hands.
Injuries to centre-backs Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Michael Dawson, coupled with the withdrawal of Rio Ferdinand, means that Hodgson will have to put his faith in the untested duo of Joleon Lescott and Chris Smalling on Tuesday.
“I certainly do see that as a weakness,” Brnovic said. “If they do not play for their own clubs, I do not see why the coach invited them to play.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Football Association of Montenegro, former AC Milan forward Dejan Savicevic, urged the country’s supporters to behave themselves during the Group H clash.
“I would like our journalists in Montenegro to appeal to our fans to cheer on the team in a sporting manner,” Savicevic said.
“During the last year and a half, our association has to pay penalties for up to 90,000 euros ($116,000) for the behaviour of our supporters in this ground.”
Vucinic, who was presented with the Montenegro Player of the Year Award by Savicevic, said there was far more riding on the game for England.
“If England fail, it will cost them more,” he said. “If I’m not wrong, they will be five points behind if they lose tomorrow.”