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Germany better under Flick, says North Macedonia's Milevski

October 9, 2021

North Macedonia made headlines after beating Germany in a World Cup qualifier earlier this year. Can they do it again? Coach Blagoja Milevski tells DW that although the Germans have improved, another win is achievable.

Blagoja Milevski
Blagoja Milevski took over as North Macedonia coach in AugustImage: Petr Stojanovski/DW

It was an historic result, that March night in Duisburg, when North Macedonia scored in the 85th minute to secure a shock 2-1 victory over Germany.

And Blagoja Milevski recognized the impact of the win for the tiny Balkan country. Now, having taken the coaching reins from then-coach Igor Angelovski, Milevski reckons this Monday's game - at home against Germany in Skopje – could well end with the same result.

Fußball: WM-Qualifikation Europa, Deutschland - Nordmazedonien
Stole Dimitrievski and Darko Velkovski celebrate North Macedonia's winning goal against Germany in March. Image: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

"Football would not be what it is if the favorite on paper always won," Milevski tells DW. "I see no reason why we should not enter this match with ambitions to achieve a positive result."

Standing in his team's way is a German squad also under a new head coach, Hansi Flick.

Milevski believes Flick's team now is significantly "better on the field" than the March team of ex-coach Joachim Löw. 

"Bobi" Milevski has the street credentials to pass judgment. As a player, he was a bit of a footballing nomad, wandering from one country to another in search of fame and trophies.

From nomad player to youth-focused coach

One memory of Germany still stands out for Milevski when he was playing for Slovenian side Maribor. It was the return leg of the 1993 UEFA Cup second round away at Borussia Dortmund in a pulsating Westfalenstadion.

"I will always remember Matthias Sammer as a person who was considered the prototype of a professional football player both on and off the field, in the national team and in club football," Milevski says.

Now 50-years-old, Milevski's coaching career has been less nomadic, focused mainly on developing young football talent.

His first significant coaching step was at Vardar Skopje, the biggest club in North Macedonia, then as the North Macedonia under-21 coach, where he took them to their first ever U21 European Championship finals in 2017.

After a short stint with Ashdod in the Israeli Premier League, Milevski returned home in August to take over his country's senior team.

Blagoja Milevski
After his playing days, Milevski emerged as a coaching talent able to nurture younger players Image: Petr Stojanovski/DW

The first three games of his tenure all ended in draws — those against Armenia and Romania in Skopje were goalless while the match in Iceland ended 2-2.

The fans wanted and expected more, especially after the historic qualification for Euro 2020 and the "miracle of Duisburg" World Cup qualifier.

Milevski, however, says he is happy with the results so far as they put his side well within striking distance of qualification for Qatar.

Respect for Germany

"Tradition, professionalism, discipline." That's what comes to mind for Milevski when he thinks about German football.

"They have a top squad, a top selection of players," he says. "They are all at the highest possible football level."

Fußball | WM Qualifikation | Deutschland - Liechtenstein | Hansi Flick
Germany head coach Hansi Flick has pushed the team to be more aggressive, North Macedonia's Milevski saysImage: ActionPictures/imago images

And Flick, Milevski believes, has transformed that top squad into a cohesive entity.

"Germany's recent matches have clearly shown that the style and the way their team works is completely different from before, much more aggressive, with a lot more running and discipline in the game."

A tough proposition for a North Macedonia team which is now without the iconic Goran Pandev, arguably North Macedonia's greatest ever player, who retired from international football after Euro 2020.

“We are undergoing a transformation with a lot of young players," says Milevski. "We are now expecting a completely different opponent and a different match."

Milevski's ethos focuses on ball retention, teamwork and letting his players show individual form. He reckons, even with a powerhouse like Germany in Group J, North Macedonia can still qualify for the World Cup 2022 - via the play-offs if needed.

"At the moment, everything is open in our group and everyone can beat everyone. I think second place will be up for grabs up until the final day."

Head shot of a bearded man (Boris Georgievski) in a dark blue blazer
Boris Georgievski Boris Georgievski is head of Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service.