FIFA World Cup 2018 team profile: Serbia look to upset the odds
Key players: Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic
Head coach: Mladen Krstajic
World Cup history: Qualified 11 times, including participations of Yugoslavia & Serbia and Montenegro; Best: 4th place (1930, 1962)
Qualifying route: UEFA Group D winners
Squad: Goalkeepers - Vladimir Stojkovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Marko Dmitrovic; Defenders - Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic, Dusko Tosic, Antonio Rukavina, Milos Veljkovic, Milan Rodic, Uros Spajic, Nikola Milenkovic; Midfielders - Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Marko Grujic, Adem Ljajic, Dusan Tadic, Filip Kostic, Andrija Zivkovic, Nemanja Radonjic; Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Prijovic, Luka Jovic
Serbia are a young team as they have only played in the FIFA World Cup as an independent nation since 2006, following the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro.
The Serbia national football team’s last appearance in the tournament was back in 2010. Despite getting knocked out in the group stages, they did manage to beat Germany.
This time around, getting out of the group won’t be impossible but Serbia will definitely not have an easy time qualifying form a group featuring Brazil, Costa Rica and Switzerland.
Taking over the team after his predecessor’s resignation, 44-year-old coach Mladen Krstajic found it difficult initially. In four international friendlies, the team collected two wins, one loss and one draw. They defeated both Nigeria and China 2-0, lost to Morocco 1-2 and tied 1-1 with South Korea.
Most of the Serbian national team’s players are currently playing in major European leagues, including their 29-year-old star Nemanja Matic, who is indispensable in the Manchester United midfield.
The fact that their players have experience of playing in top leagues in Europe should help, but Serbia qualifying for the knockouts itself will be an achievement for them.
(With IANS inputs)