PODGORICA, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Montenegro are in a good position to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation but under no pressure to do so, coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic said ahead of their crunch qualifiers against Denmark and Poland.
The Montenegrins are joint second with Denmark in Group E on 16 points from eight games and an identical goal difference, three behind leaders Poland.
They are at home to Denmark on Thursday and visit Poland on Sunday, seeking either automatic qualification as one of the nine group winners or a playoff berth available to the eight best runners-up.
“We’ve come this far and we want to make the final step if possible,” Serb Tumbakovic told a news conrference on Wednesday.
“If not and we don’t go through, it’s not the end of the world. All I can ask for is that the lads show the utmost commitment and patriotism and I am sure they will.
“We headed into the campaign with a long-term goal of moulding a team bound to catch the eye with entertaining football and I always believed the results would go in hand.”
Having stunned the more fancied Danes 1-0 in the reverse fixture, Montenegro need to repeat the trick in order to keep alive realistic hopes of qualifying, with Denmark at home to written-off Romania in their final match.
Tumbakovic acknowledged it would be a more difficult prospect although the Montenegrins will be backed by a fervent home crowd in the cauldron of Podgorica stadium.
“If Denmark underestimated us last time, they certainly won’t do it now,” he said.
“We’ve analysed their strengths and weaknesses and will try to capitalise on the latter. They have quality individuals and will have a go at us, that’s for sure.”
Captain and top scorer Stevan Jovetic, who inspired Montenegro with seven of their 18 goals in the campaign, was confident they would qualify.
“The upcoming games are among the biggest in Montenegro’s history and I wouldn’t be here if I lacked faith,” he said.
“I am ready to be the match-winner again but frankly it doesn’t matter who scores.” (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)