Soccer-North Macedonia unfazed by Euro challenge, says Elmas

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup Qualifiers Europe - Group J - Germany v North Macedonia - MSV-Arena, Duisburg, Germany - March 31, 2021 North Macedonia's Eljif Elmas in action with Germany's Joshua Kimmich REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

(Reuters) - North Macedonia will be confident of reaching the Euro 2020 knockout stages despite their lack of experience on the big stage, midfielder Eljif Elmas said on Thursday.

North Macedonia, a nation of two million people, had never previously qualified for a major tournament since gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

They are in Group C with 1988 champions the Netherlands, Austria and Ukraine.

"We are a small nation playing big teams but we will not be overawed and we believe that we can advance from our group to the last 16," Elmas told a news conference.

"We know what we have accomplished is great but no one should be content to just make up the numbers at the European Championship. The tournament has been the only thing on my mind for the last three months."

Playmaker Boban Nikolov said: "We are ready to make the nation proud. There is a big difference between playing for club and country.

"This team has character and we are confident that the whole of the Balkans will root for us at Euro 2020."

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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