A key man in FK Shkëndija 79's maiden European win last week, Bojan Vručina is convinced they can add another chapter to the club's history books when they visit FC Zimbru Chisinau in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round on Thursday.
Shkëndija, whose sole major trophy came when they lifted the Macedonian title in 2011, have fallen at the first hurdle in both their previous European campaigns, 5-0 on aggregate to FK Partizan in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League and 2-1 overall to Portadown FC in the subsequent UEFA Europa League season. However, having posted their first continental victory with the 2-1 home triumph against Zimbru last Tuesday, Shkëndija now aim to set up a second qualifying round tie against PFC CSKA Moskva.
Experienced Shkëndija striker Mensur Kurtisi may have departed for Australian champions Brisbane Roar FC since the first leg, but in-form attacking midfielder Vručina is optimistic. "We have the strength and the quality to beat Zimbru," the 29-year-old told UEFA.com. "Having played the first leg, now we know Zimbru even better and I'm convinced we can advance to the next round."
A former Croatian international, Vručina joined the Tetovo-based club in January and registered nine First League goals by the end of term for a team who eventually finished fourth. His good form continued with the first-half opener, an excellent 20-metre free kick, in Shkëndija's success over Zimbru.
"The whole team were very well prepared from the start," Vručina said. "We were able to implement a lot of the things we talked about in training and earned a very important victory in an exceptionally tough match. Even though, while leading 2-0, we conceded as a result of a silly mistake, we have to be satisfied with the score. After Zimbru reduced our two-goal advantage they had a couple of threatening attacks so we're happy with the victory."
Realistic in his assessment that "reaching the Europa League group stage at the moment is too ambitious" for the side from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vručina still believes "this team have the quality to pleasantly surprise many in the European game this season".
"We're strongly motivated and right now the most important thing for us is to eliminate the Moldovans," the former NK Slaven Belupo, MSV Duisburg, Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC and Kaposvári Rákóczi FC forward continued. "
We have experienced and quality players, but our strength comes literally from every part of the club, starting from the management, the coach, the players and our fantastic supporters to the doctor, the physio and everyone else involved. We have one common goal, which we strive towards, and we're doing everything we can for the club we love."
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