Crna Gora / Црна Гора / Montenegro
- Capital: Podgorica / Подгорица
- Official Languages: Montenegrin
- Other Languages Officially Used: Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
- Nicknames: Hrabri sokoli / Храбри соколи (The Brave Falcons)
- Association: Fudbalski savez Crne Gore (FSCG) / Фудбалски савез Црне Горе (ФСЦГ)
- FIFA Code: MNE
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 16th (June 2011)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 78th (December 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 199th (June 2007)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 131st (December 2012)
- Most Capped Player: Fatos Bećiraj – 78 caps [as of April 2021]
- Top Scorer: Stevan Jovetić – 31 goals [as of April 2021]
Montenegro is a small country situated in the southeast of the European continent on the Adriatic coast of the Balkan peninsula. Historically a kingdom which was part of the Allied Powers during World War I, it became a republic within Yugoslavia throughout the majority of the 20th century before peacefully voting for independence once again in 2006. As a result, they are one of the newest nations to appear in the international football sphere by becoming members of UEFA and FIFA as recently as 2007. Montenegro shares land borders with a number of their fellow Balkan neighbours with Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to its east, Albania to the southeast, and a small border with Croatia to the west.
Despite taking part in the 2006 World Cup alongside former compatriots Serbia as ‘Serbia & Montenegro’, the Hrabri Sokoli played their first international as an independent nation in 2007, beating Hungary 2-1 at Podgorica. This would be the prelude to Montenegro continuously ‘punching above its weight’ in European football despite its small area and population, as they have been blessed with a talented generation of players progressing to the senior level just as independence was confirmed. They certainly showed their prowess in the Euro 2012 qualification campaign when they finished above Switzerland, Wales and Bulgaria, and drew twice with group winners England, to finish as group runners-up and confirm a playoff spot. Sadly Montenegro lost 3-0 on aggregate to the Czech Republic in the two-legged playoff, but it showed that the small country was a fierce and formidable side within European football.
Montenegro have yet to qualify for either a World Cup or European Championships despite impressive showings in previous qualification campaigns. They finished third in their groups for both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup qualifiers and fourth in the Euro 2016 qualifying group, although a massively disappointing campaign for Euro 2020 qualifying saw them finish bottom of the group with just three points and no victories – certainly the worst campaign for the Montenegrins since they became members of UEFA and FIFA. However, Montenegro may fancy their chances of progressing to the 2022 World Cup as they’re currently fighting in a surprisingly close group with Turkey, the Netherlands, Norway, Latvia and Gibraltar. With Norway starting poorly, and the Netherlands and Turkey looking inconsistent at times, perhaps the experienced and talented Hrabri Sokoli can finally claim a top two spot, which could potentially result in their debut appearance in a major tournament come the end of 2022..?
To talk about one of the newest international sides within world football who are considered to be one of the more fiercesome sides in Europe despite its seemingly small stature, we interviewed the excellent Montenegrin Football account. They are an English language Twitter account which reports on all things involving Montenegrin football, whether it be the exciting domestic leagues, Montenegrin players playing abroad, or the performances of the national team. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @FtblMontenegro
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
For the best player, I’d say Stevan Jovetić [attacking midfielder/forward currently with AS Monaco]. He’s scored 31 goals for the national team, more than any other Montenegrin player, and he’s played for the team since it’s formation in 2007.
The manager is harder to say as none have been overwhelming but current manager Miodrag Radulović could go down in history if we qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Fatos Bećiraj [a striker currently playing at Israeli side Bnei Yehuda] with 78 caps is a mainstay of the team. Stefan Savić [centre-back with Atlético Madrid] is also a bit of a hero as he’s so good. Andrija Delibašić also for that last minute equaliser against England in the Euro 2012 qualifiers (see the video further down the blog) that confirmed a playoff spot.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Montenegrin national side currently?
Players like Jovetić are still our talisman, whilst Savić plays at the highest level club-wise, so it’s between those two.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
They are currently playing decent football to a degree, with plenty of character, and could genuinely make a push for qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
Q. Are there any Montenegrin players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Without a doubt Sead Hakšabanović, he’s a 21 year old attacking midfielder. West Ham United picked him up in 2017 and loaned him out a couple of times before selling him to Swedish club IFK Norrköping, so if he had more opportunities he could of been playing in the English Premier League, and could well do again one day. He’s full of pace and is very good on the ball, certainly the player I look forward to seeing most when the team play.
Q. Looking at Montenegro’s relatively short international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Probably for me personally the 2-1 win over Georgia in 2009 as it was our first ever competitive win as an independent nation (our first ever game was against Hungary in 2007 which we also won 2-1 but that was just a friendly).
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Question number seven, ironically is when we lost 7-0 to England in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, in November 2019. It’s our biggest ever defeat and was just embarrassing, you never want to see a national team get thumped that badly.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Montenegro national team?
As a fan of Montenegro, you don’t expect much in all honesty. We do produce some very talented players though so it is always fun to see them come through. The occasional upset is nice too, beating Switzerland 1-0 in 2010 [in the Euro 2012 qualifiers] was good fun as was Denmark away in 2016 [winning 1-0 in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers].
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Not that I know of although there was plenty of singing in the game below though, Delibašić secured cult status after this also.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The 18/19 shirt was nice, I like a collared shirt. This year’s shirt is pretty decent too.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Montenegrin national team?
Simply, qualification for a major tournament.
A massive hvala to Montenegrin Football for answering our questions on the Brave Falcons. Remember you can find their excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.