FK Zeta midfielder Goran Burzanović said "whatever happens, I think our achievement will never be forgotten" as his side reap the rewards for a great qualifying campaign, taking on PSV Eindhoven for a UEFA Europa League group stage place.
The 28-year-old described Thursday's opener against the 1987/88 European champions (and 1977/78 UEFA Cup winners) as "without doubt, the biggest game in the history of Montenegrin club football". Burzanović has played a significant role in taking the Golubovci club this far, scoring the only goal in the second leg of their third qualifying round tie against FK Sarajevo to secure an away-goals victory and complete Zeta's maiden voyage to the play-offs.
It has already been a season of wonders for Zeta. Starting their UEFA Europa League campaign in the first qualifying round in early July, they eliminated Armenia's FC Pyunik then JJK Jyväskylä of Finland before coming up against Sarajevo. "Sincerely, all we were aiming for to start with was to give our best, but after we knocked out our first two opponents and then got Sarajevo in the draw, we saw we had a chance to meet one of the giants," said Burzanović.
"I am so happy and proud that we will play against former European champions," added the midfielder, who has played for Zeta since 2008, making over 100 league appearances. Defender Miroslav Kaludjerović added defiantly: "There were comments that we were lucky to get through the first two rounds, but we couldn't beat three teams by accident. We deserve to be here."
Founded in 1927, the club from the Podgorica suburbs is one of Montenegro's oldest, but they were a lower-league side during the days of the former Yugoslavia, making it to the top division for a first time just 12 years ago, and making their European debut in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup. They then defied the odds and pipped capital giants FK Budućnost Podgorica to win the first post-independence Montenegrin title in 2007.
We were first local club to play in the old UEFA Cup, we were first champions and now we have achieved Montenegro's biggest success on the European stage," said club general secretary Vladimir Šišević. "We are very proud of these facts."
They would be prouder still if they made it to the group stage, but Burzanović is not daring to dream just yet. "For us, there is no better feeling than having a chance to compete against Mark van Bommel, Ola Toivonen and the other PSV players," he said. "
It is an honour for such a small club to be at same level as these former European champions, the successors to Ronaldo and Romário.
"We know where we stand compared to our opponents, but the PSV players should know that we are not just playing for the opportunity to swap shirts after the match," he added. "We will play the best we can and try to make life very hard for them. I am glad that we play the first leg at home. We start at 0-0, I hope we will have huge support and in 90 minutes anything can happen, but whatever happens, I think our achievement will never be forgotten."
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