Montenegro defeat could set Euro 2016 tone

Moldova manager Ion Caras has admitted his side got exactly what they deserved in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Montenegro and vowed to work out why his side were “so poor” in the 2-0 defeat.

Losing your first game in qualifying is never a good thing and, in what looks like a tough group, Moldova appear up against it to make it to France in 2016.

Being in a group of six, Moldova know they realistically need to finish in the top two to make it to the finals in two years’ time but it looked a big ask before a ball had been kicked in qualifying and, following the early Montenegro setback, appears even more difficult.

Russia will be regarded as many people’s favourites to top what could be a tight Group G but there are other traditionally strong sides in the section to worry Moldova and Caras further.

Montenegro proved in last week’s win that they remain a tough nut to crack and are likely to push Sweden and Austria – the other two countries tipped to be in the qualification mix – hard for a top-two place.

A check of the sometimes misleading FIFA rankings suggests Russia are the strongest team in the group as they are currently placed 23rd, ahead of Sweden (29th), Austria (40th) and Montenegro (49th). Moldova sit just inside the top 100 at 99th, while group minnows and potential whipping boys Liechtenstein are ranked way down in 156th – with only three countries regarded worse in the whole of Europe at the moment.

However, plenty of observers and keen followers of the latest football news would suggest – probably correctly – that Montenegro pose more of a threat than Austria, while Sweden, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and all, could argue they are at least a match for Russia on their day.

What is not in dispute is that Moldova face a real fight to make it into the top two and qualify for their first-ever major finals since the country’s independence and first game in 1991.

Worryingly for Caras, he admitted after the Montenegro defeat that his side lacked the appetite for the game and appeared to question his players’ attitude in the opener.
He said: “Congratulations to Montenegro – the better team won. They wanted the points more than we did, they fought hard for them and got their reward.

“We made a lot of mistakes in midfield and both goals we conceded came from our mistakes. I will search hard for a reason why we played so poorly in our first game.”

Next up in the qualifying campaign is a home game against Austria and, while there is obviously still a long way to go, it is fair to say another defeat would leave their chances of securing a top-two place looking pretty remote.

A much better performance is required and a morale-boosting victory seemingly paramount to ensure Moldova can at least make some sort of impact in Group G at all.

After the Austria clash, comes a short trip to Russia for what is probably the toughest assignment of all in the group and the concern is if Moldova do not improve, three defeats out of three will be their unwelcome early record.