Serbia is flying off to Russia for FIFA World Cup 2018 after eight years. Mladen Krstajic’s side will be participating in this mega event after eight years since their exit in 2010 World Cup and they are back with strong hope and determination. Serbia’s side has the experienced defence and also a creative attack up front which will be a boost for the side to take on some big sides in the competition.
Serbia is placed in a tough group and hence they need something big in order to qualify for the next stage of competitions. Serbia is placed in Group E alongside Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica. Krstajić has a side that has an aging defense but that shall be taken care by youthful attack. Nemanja Matic and Tadic are expected to don the midfield since they are the players with experience in midfield while defense features five players above the age of 32. This would be a big test for Serbia to go through to the next stage.
● SQUAD ANALYSIS:
Vladimir Stojković will be the first choice goalie for Serbia in this World Cup. Stojković has been representing Serbia since 2006 with 81 caps to his name. Predrag Rajković,22, is also in the Serbian squad who has just 8 appearances for his national side, who is plying his trade for Maccabi Tel Aviv with 105 appearances since 2016. Alsksander Jovanovic is also in roster of four goalies who his playing in Denmark for AGF having just represented Serbia once. Marko Dmitrović also finds a place in this Serbian squad having made two appearances since 2017. Dmitrović is currently with Eibar in Spain. With experience of Vladimir Stojković, Serbia will be looking for more clean sheets ahead.
Defence of Serbia is very experienced with almost five players above the age of 32. This will be a big strength for both midfield and also for forwards to go forward and attack. Some notable names are Aleksander Kolarov (Roma), Branislav Ivanovič (Zenit St Petersburg) and Matija Nastasić (Schalke 04). Villarreal defender Antonio Rukavina will also be one of the right-backs with experience and has represented his nation 47 times. Milan Rodić is another left-back in the squad who has made just a single appearance. However, Kolarov is expected to start as left-back for Serbia. Uros Spajić from Anderlecht will also be a young centre-back fighting for a place in the starting eleven. Spurs youth product, Milos Velijković is in the roster who can play as a centre-back as well as DM. Dusko Tosic, 33, who is playing in China for Guangzhou is a versatile defender alongside Nikola Milenković of Fiorentina who is just 20 and also the youngest defender in the side.
Midfield will be completely dependent upon Nemanja Matić and Dusan Tadić. Experienced midfielders plying their trade in England will be a key asset for this Serbian side. Nemanja Matić will act as a defensive midfielder with his control and key passing can be a big threat to the opposition. Luka Milivojević will also be in midfield with his experience who is playing for Crystal Palace currently. Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujić, 22, is selected in this midfield ahead of this big competition. Young versatile midfielder, who partially plays as a winger is Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica) is in the squad. Other options for Krstajić are Mijat Gacinović (Eintracht), Filip Radonjić (Red Star Belgrade) and Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio). Adem Ljajić with his experience in Italy for Inter and Torino will be crucial as he will be playing as a winger too.
The forward line is completely depended upon talented Aleksandar Mitrović, 23, who has scored 16 goals in 37 appearances for Serbia since 2013. He has also found the net 12 times in 17 appearances for Fulham in 2018 on loan from Newcastle United. Mitrović was crucial for the promotion to Premier League as he scored 12 goals in 19 appearances. Mitrović is one player to watch out for in this Serbian side. Other two forwards are Aleksandar Prijović from PAOK and young 20-year-old Luka Jović from Eintracht Frankfrut.
○ WORLD CUP FIXTURES:
Serbia will kick off their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica on June 17th followed by game against Switzerland on June 22nd and finally against Brazil on June 27th.
• Serbia vs Costa Rica- 17th June, 2018
• Serbia vs Switzerland- 22nd June, 2018
• Serbia vs Brazil- 27th June, 2018
● PAST RECORD:
Serbia has qualified for World Cups 11 times in the past and their best finish was fourth place during 1930 and 1962. They were knocked out in 2010 in the initial group stage games and similarly in 2006. Serbia qualified into this World Cup with win against Gerogia on October 9th, 2017. Prijović scored the only goal which guaranteed their place in the World Cup.
● RECENT FORM:
Serbia is entering the tournament with a big win over Bolivia on 9th June, 2018. The game ended with a score line of 5-1 where Mitrovic scored a hat-trick with Ivanović and Ljajić finding the net. Serbia has 6 wins out of their last 10 games with a draw against South Korea in a friendly game and 3 losses. Mitrović has been active in front of the goal which is most required for the Serbian national side.
● COACH’S QUOTES :
Mladen Krstajić has injected youth into the squad with some experience at the back. “As for the pressure, I think it’s completely normal for it to exist. I have no fear. I have great colleagues and great coaching staff,” said Krstajić. Mladen Krstajić believes that his side can go through despite being placed on a tough group. Speaking of opponents, “We certainly don’t have easy opponents. When you look at Costa Rica being 25th on FIFA ranking, Switzerland being 6th, Brazil being second and Serbia being 35th,that indicates what we’re up against” said the 44-year-old who is confident ahead of World Cup.
● WRITER’S TAKE:
Aleksandar Kolarov leading the side alongside Ivanović will be the heart of this Serbian side. Experienced defence at the back and youthful attack upfront is how Serbia is going to lineup. One has to admit that the roster has lot of aged players but there is also youth stars to be excited about. Midfield is up to Matić and Tadić and Milinković-Savić to control the ball and possess while Mitrović should also step up if Serbia needs to qualify for the next stage with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica in their group. Serbia needs to produce some miracle, if they need to go through the group stages.