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Napoli’s Elmas included in North Macedonia squad for Malta qualifier

Napoli’s Elif Elmas is among the 28 players selected by North Macedonia coach Blagoja Milevski as they are set to launch their Euro 2024 qualifications with a home tie against Malta.

Michele Marcolini’s Malta will face the Euro 2021 participants in Skopje on March 23 before hosting Italy three days later, at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali.

Elmas, 23, has been one of the key figures at high-flying Napoli with his six goals and two assists in 25 Serie A league games as the Partenopei are closing in on a well-deserved title triumph.

He has also made eight appearances in the Champions League including short cameos in both legs against Eintracht Frankfurt as Luciano Spalletti’s team progressed to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Udinese’s Ilija Nestorovski and Darko Churlinov of Burnley are also called up.

Forward Aleksandar Trajkovski, who scored the dramatic winner that dumped out Italy from the 2022 World Cup qualifications, has been selected as well.

“We are better than Malta, but we have to prove it,” coach Milevski told a news conference.

“Outsiders do not exist today. We will do everything to start successfully in these European qualifiers.

“We have tough opponents but we have the quality and the potential to cope with them. The first match is always important to set the tone.”

North Macedonia has won five of the previous six encounters against Malta while drawing 1-1 in the last head-to-head, back in 2010.

SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS
Stole Dimitrievski (Rayo Vallecano, Spain), Damjan Shishkovski (Doxa, Cyprus), Kristijan Naumovski (Shkupi), Igor Aleksovski (Rabotnicki).

DEFENDERS
Visar Musliu (Ingolstadt, Germany), Gjoko Zajkov (U. Craiova, Romania), Darko Velkovski (Al-Ettifaq, Saudi Arabia), Stefan Ristovski (Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia), Ezgjan Alioski (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Egzon Bejtulai (Shkendija), Kire Ristevski (Pyunik, Armenia), Vladica Brdarovski (Shkupi), Dojan Dimoski (Akademija Pandev).

MIDFIELDERS
Enis Bardhi (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Elif Elmas (Napoli, Italy), Arijan Ademi (Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia), Jani Atanasov (Wisla Krakow, Poland), Agon Elezi (Varazdin, Croatia), David Babunski (Mezokovesdi SE, Hungary), Davor Zdravkosvki (AEL, Cyprus), Stefan Ashkovski (Lamia, Greece).

FORWARDS
Bojan Miovski (Aberdeen, Scotland), Aleksandar Trajkovski (Al-Fayha, Saudi Arabia), Milan Ristovski (Spartak Trnava, Slovakia), Dorian Babunski (Debreceni, Hungary), Valon Ethemi (Istanbulspor, Turkey), Ilija Nestorovski (Udinese, Italy), Darko Churlinov (Burnley, England).

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