The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Serbia

Serbia National Team

The Eagles of Serbia

Orlovi

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Serbia

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 6-3-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 35th
World Cup 2014 Finish – DNQ
Russia 2018 Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Formation – 4-2-3-1
Strengths – Midfield, Togetherness
Weaknesses – Defense, Goalie
Major Threats – Milinkovic, Mitrovic

In recent times summers have been very quiet and stress free for Serbian football fans considering that the national team has failed to qualify for 3 straight major tournaments and has appeared in only 2 since crashing out of Euro 2000. This summer however the fans of the “Eagles” will be out in full force and full voice as the team has qualified for Russia 2018 after a solid qualifying campaign. The task will not be an easy one though as the team finds itself in an extremely difficult group with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica.

This is the biggest question mark to Serbia’s success. Slavoljub Muslin led the side through qualifying but was fired because his vision did not line up with that of the Serbian FAs. His assistant Mladen Krstajic took over in Novemsber. Krstajic has zero head coaching experience and it’s uncertain whether he is ready for such a job. Krstajic was an excellent defender in his day which should be of some help when setting up a side but his lack of experience is a major spot of worry for most Serbian fans. How he performs in this new role will likely make or break this team.

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Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The team is expected to progress out of the group stage, anything else would be a bonus. No Serbian side has made it out of the group stage at a World Cup since France ’98 so this would be a big achievement for the nation.


DEFENSE:

Goalkeeper has been one the national teams weakness positions for a very long time simply due to the fact that the country has failed to produce great keepers for decades. Vladimir Stojkovic has been the starting GK for the better part of a decade but he’s never had much success outside of Serbia, failing to make an impact at all of his other stops across Europe’s stronger leagues. Stojkovic has been hit and miss with the national team, in some games he’s amazing while in others he makes costly mistakes. The experienced FK Partizan keeper’s time as a starter could be coming to an end as two very talented youngsters are pushing for his spot. Marko Dmitrovic of La Liga side Eibar and Predrag Rajkovic of Maccabi Tel Aviv have shown their undeniable quality for their clubs and for Serbia’s youth national teams. Dmitrovic was even given a chance to start over Stojkovic in a recent friendly match vs Moroocco. Stojkovic has been the undisputed starter for years but this time around there is real competition for his spot and Dmitrovic could take the field when action kicks off vs Costa Rica on June 17th.

Defence has been Serbia’s problem spot for years now. Ever since the retirement of Nemanja Vidic, Serbia has struggled to find a consistent centre back partnership. This year is no different as less than a month before the tournament no one can confidently predict who the two CBS will be. Branislav Ivanovic, Matija Nastasic, Dusko Tosic and Nikola Maksimovic will fight it out for the spots. All of them have had good and bad moments for the national team. The lack of a trusted CB pairing is arguably Serbia’s biggest weakness going into the World Cup. Aleksandar Kolarov is the undisputed starting left back while veteran Antonio Rukavina will be the right back. Serbia also has a couple of very talented young defenders in Milos Veljkovic and Nikola Milenkovic who could play a role in the tournament but their time is likely yet to come. If Serbia wants to have any sort of success in Russia manager Mladen Krstajic will have to figure out a back four that functions and performs together.

MIDFIELD

This is undoubtedly Serbia’s strongest part of the team. The midfield is full of talent, skill and experience. Nemanja Matic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luka Milivojevic, Dusan Tadic, Adem Ljajic, Andrija Zivkovic, Filip Kostic and Mijat Gacinovic all possess the quality to make a difference on the pitch vs any opponent. Matic and Milivojevic are the rocks that hold the side together with their strength and poise while one of the world’s most wanted player Sergej Milinkovic-Savic can change the game in one moment with his brilliance. The wingers Tadic and Kostic were a big reason why Serbia qualified for the World Cup and continued strong play from the wing positions will also be a big factor in any tournament success. Their ability to supply striker Aleksandar Mitrovic with quality balls is paramount to the team’s dangerous attack. Serbia is blessed with weapons that have a wide variety of skills and no side will have a easy time with this fearsome midfield.

Alexander Mitrovic

Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the second goal of his team during their World Cup Group D qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday, October 9, 2016. Photo: AP

STRIKERS

The national team has lacked a reliable striker for years now but that’s all in the past with the growth of Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Newcastle man (on loan at Fulham) was massive in qualifying leading the team in scoring with 6 goals. His amazing form at Fulham has only boosted his confidence and the powerful 23 year old looks set for a coming out party in Russia. Mitrovic s backup Aleksandar Prijovic is no slouch either. The skilled target man scored 27 goals for his club PAOK in Greece this season and was a solid contributor to the national team whenever he’s gotten a chance to play. The 3rd striker will likely be the young phenom Luka Jovic who plays in the Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt. Jovic has had a breakout season in 2018, firmly putting himself in the national team picture. Striker is clearly no longer a position of weakness for Serbia and their Group E opponents should be very weary of this talented trio.

GAME by GAME (Costa Rica, Switzerland, Brazil)

*Keys vs Costa Rica: The first match is always the most important one and often the hardest one. Costa Rica is a dangerous team that knows how play together and can really hurt Serbia with their speed. The key will be to stop the Costarican counterattacks and neutralize their quick players.
Prediction: Serbia win

*Keys vs Switzerland: This is going to be one hard fought match. Switzerland is extremely organized and always ready to battle for a full 90 minutes. The key will be to win the battle in the midfield and control possession. The Swiss struggle to score and the less chances they create the better.
Prediction: Serbia win

*Keys vs Brazil: Well hopefully the first 2 games will go in Serbia’s favour and this one won’t mean much. Brazil is one of the top teams in the World and the key is to stay composed and dsdfend well.
Prediction: Brazil win

Krstajic

Coach Mladen Krstajic

Here’s the Serbian Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Vladimir Stojkovic, Marko Dmitrovic, Predrag Rajkovic

DEFENDERS (8): Uros Spajic, Branislav Ivanovic, Antonio Rukavina, Milan Rodic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Milos Veljkovic, Dusko Tosic, Nikola Milenkovic

MIDFIELDERS (9): Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Marko Grujic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic, Andrija Zivkovic, Filip Kostic, Adem Ljajic, Nemanja Radonjic

FORWARDS (3): Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Prijovic, Luka Jovic

Expected Starting lineup:
Dmitrovic
Rukavina-Ivanovic-Tosic-Kolarov
Matic-Milivojevic
Tadic- Milinkovic_Savic-Kostic
Mitrovic

Piece by Milos Dusanovic, the authority and chief of Serbian football. Find him at Twitter.com/Serbianfooty

 

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