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Montenegro makes historic, winning international debut

24 March 2007 22:17

PODGORICA (AFP) - Thousands of red and yellow umbrellas flew in the air as Montenegrin forward Igor Burzanovic scored a penalty to help seal victory against Hungary in what was their first international appearance Saturday.

Burzanovic's decisive goal in the 2-1 friendly win capped a long-awaited match for the tiny Adriatic republic, which proclaimed independence from Serbia last June.

Since early morning, hundreds of people, mostly dressed in the red and yellow colors of the national team, braved heavy rain and strong winds to pour towards the main stadium in the capital of Podgorica.

Montenegrin red flags with golden eagles covered every shop and cafe window in the capital, while cars circled the town square beeping their horns to the rhythm of the national team's hymn.

"Viva Montenegro" and "Forza Montenegro" were the only greetings football fans, but also those not really interested in sport, exchanged during the day.

Even two hours before the match was scheduled to start, more than 11,000 people had packed the stadium.

As kick-off approached hundreds of young supporters unwrapped a huge white flag with Montenegrin insignia.

The sounds of the drummers and enthusiasm of the crown barely abated even when Hungary's Tamas Priskin scored for the visitors in the first minute.

"We will win, trust me, two goals in the second half," predicted Novica Djurovic, a 25-year old student who travelled for two hours from northern town Kolasin to see the game.

When Montenegro's captain Mirko Vucinic levelled the score from the penalty spot, the noise from trumpets, drums and thousands of fans roaring "Goal!" was almost unbearable.

"Red heat is unstoppable," shouted a group of teenagers, all dressed in red and yellow, with their faces painted in the same colours.

Montenegrin politicians and local celebrities joined in, with Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic proudly accompanying UEFA chief Michel Platini.

"This is an historic day for Montenegro, a new chapter in its history," said Montenegrin coach Zoran Filipovic, a former striker with Red Star Belgrade and Benfica.

To crown Montenegro's first appearance on the international football scene, Red Star Belgrade forward Burzanovic scored another penalty, with crowds erupting in more than two-minute long shout "Goal!"

"Let them hear us in Heaven, Montenegro is unstoppable," chanted the supporters.

The only ones worrying were Podgorica's bookies.

Just a week ago, most of those betting were favouring Hungary's victory. On Wednesday, most of the bets reversed the scores, favouring Montenegrin victory.

Fearing large losses, the bookies decided to close the books on all bets favouring a Montenegro win on Friday.

"I will lose a lot, that is for sure. But who cares, the victory is more important than the money," said one of the bookies after the match.

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