Amsterdam: North Macedonia captain Goran Pandev will draw his international career to a close after their final Euro 2020 Group C match against the Netherlands today, the 37-year old forward said.
The Macedonians, playing at their first major tournament as an independent nation, cannot reach the last 16 after defeats by Austria and Ukraine left them certain of finishing bottom of the group.
Pandev, who has scored 38 goals in 121 appearances for his country since making his debut in 2001 and turns 38 in July, was confident the Balkan nation would enjoy more success after they got off to a good start in 2022 World Cup qualifying.
“This will be my last game for the national team as it’s the right time to call time on my international career,” Pandev told a news conference on Sunday.
“This generation can bring the nation plenty of joy in the future, and I believe they are capable of qualifying for the World Cup. The match will be special, and I am hoping for a good farewell performance.
“I will probably soon finish my club career too, but as far as the national team goes, this is definitely the end because playing on two fronts at the age of 38 is too much.” Pandev has spent the last six years of his career at Serie A side Genoa, having won the treble with Inter Milan in 2010 of the Champions League, the Italian league title and the Coppa Italia.
North Macedonia won two of their opening three World Cup qualifiers, including a stunning 2-1 away upset of Germany in March. But they have been unable to replicate that form at the European championship.
They showed glimpses of it and a fighting spirit which won over their raucous fans in two games in Bucharest, and coach Igor Angelovski was upbeat ahead of the clash against 1988 European champions Netherlands in the Johan Cruyff Arena.
“The Dutch are the absolute favourites but we have to reproduce the good things we did against Ukraine and go out there believing we can get a result,” he said.
“The Netherlands are the kind of team which should bring out the best in us. As for Pandev, I can only thank him and say that I am fortunate to have worked with a man and a player like him.”
Netherlands coach Frank de Boer has a difficult decision to make for his team’s final Group C match at the European Championship. “Do we want to keep the players in the rhythm and further refine the system, or should we rest some of the boys?” De Boer said.
The answer is a bit of both. De Boer said Sunday he would make two changes to the team that beat Austria 2-0.
De Boer, however, did not say who would be rested. “We had good moments against Ukraine, we had good moments against Austria, but there’s still room for improvement,” he said.