Montenegro put faith in ‘Ferrari’ strike duo

When England captain Steven Gerrard opined that Montenegro “have got certain individuals in the world-class category”, he did not have to name names.

Marko Basa, of French club Lille, is a rugged presence at centre-back and his fellow defender Stefan Savic won the Premier League title at Manchester City last season, but the team’s lethal weapons are their forwards, Mirko Vucinic and Stefan Jovetic.

With 14 international goals, captain Vucinic is the all-time leading scorer for the national side, which only came into existence six years ago following the country’s split from Serbia in 2006.

An elegant forward with a powerful shot, he helped Juventus to a Serie A and Coppa Italia double last year in his first season at the club following a 15-million-euro ($19.5 million) transfer from Roma in 2011.

At 23, Jovetic is six years Vucinic’s junior, but he has also been an integral part of the national team from the very first days of its existence.

The mop-haired support striker missed the whole of the 2010-11 season with a serious cruciate knee ligament injury but came back even stronger for club side Fiorentina.

Having scored 14 league goals in his comeback season, he has already found the net 12 times in Serie A this term and has reportedly been identified as a close-season transfer target by English giants Arsenal.

As strike partners, they make for an untypical duo.

Neither player is a true striker, with Vucinic habitually drawing to the left-hand side of the pitch and Jovetic more comfortable in the hole, but their positional interchanging makes them fiendlishly hard to mark.

Both are also fully aware of their responsibilities to the national team, who could extend their advantage at the top of World Cup qualifying Group H to five points with victory over England in Podgorica on Tuesday.

“We are an old country with a young football association, and our country’s past is something we are very proud of,” said Vucinic, scorer of the only goal in Friday’s 1-0 win in Moldova.

“The fact we have never qualified for the World Cup finals or European Championship is extra motivation for us to keep getting results and to keep improving.

“For Montenegro, a match with England is spectacular. No one wants to miss it.”

Montenegro managed two draws against England when the sides met in qualifying for Euro 2012 and finished second in the group, only to lose out to the Czech Republic in the play-offs.

They have made the early running once again in the current campaign and invite England to the Podgorica City Stadium with a commanding position in the group to defend.

Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic expects England to make most of the running on Tuesday evening, but he knows that Roy Hodgson’s side will be more than aware of the hosts’ attacking threat.

“We will maybe park a bus in defence,” he said, “but we also have two Ferraris in attack.”

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