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Montenegro take pride in defying England

Published: Wednesday 27 March 2013, 9.19CET
"This point is like a win to us," said captain Mirko Vučinić after Montenegro struck back to hold England, though coach Branko Brnović felt his side could have had all three.
by Aleksandar Radović
from Podgorica
Montenegro take pride in defying England
Dejan Damjanović's strike beats England goalkeeper Joe Hart ©Getty Images

Published: Wednesday 27 March 2013, 9.19CET

Montenegro take pride in defying England

"This point is like a win to us," said captain Mirko Vučinić after Montenegro struck back to hold England, though coach Branko Brnović felt his side could have had all three.

A point against England had Montenegro captain Mirko Vučinić dreaming of Brazil, but coach Branko Brnović was left thinking his side "could have had three" in Group H.

England went in front on six minutes in Podgorica through Wayne Rooney as Roy Hodgson's team completely dominated the first half. Yet the way Montenegro clawed back possession after the break, eventually equalising through substitute Dejan Damjanović 14 minutes from the end, had Vučinić believing a FIFA World Cup place was in their grasp. "This point is like a win to us and could be vital," the striker said. "With four games left we are top of the group, and of course that means we can think about Brazil."

Boss Brnović, however, was in no mood for celebration despite his charges' two-point lead over the English in the standings. "We could have had three points after a very good second half, but we have to be realistic and say England were the better side in the first 45 minutes," he concluded. "We played with fear, not aggression, in the first half. At half-time I told my players there was no need to be afraid – that they should just play their best. We raised our game, pressured their defence and showed how we can attack."

Damjanović had scored to give Montenegro a crucial victory in Ukraine in October, and if his latest effort was not the most elegant goal – resulting from a goalmouth scramble – the FC Seoul forward knew what it was worth. "We started poorly but woke up in time," the 31-year-old said.

"In the second half we squeezed them into their box and deserved to win. We mustn't understate this: drawing against a strong team like England is a big success for Montenegro. Now we all believe we can fight for first or second place in the group."

Montenegro have drawn all three of their competitive fixtures against England, having held their opponents twice in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. "That makes me very proud," said Brnović. "Little Montenegro have still not lost to great big England. We are going to Wembley in October and, believe me, we will not be there on holiday. We can cause them a lot of problems again."

Before that, though, they host Ukraine at the Stadion Podgorica on 7 June – another key encounter for Brnović. "We have taken a big step forward, but we will only know where we stand after the Ukraine match," he said. "Ukraine is a must-win game for us – and we can do it.

"In this stadium, only Spain would be favourites – no one else. If we get three points against Ukraine we will secure a play-off spot, but whatever happens we are delighted that we will be fighting for a World Cup place until the end."

Last updated: 27/03/13 11.56CET

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