2010 FIFA World Cup Group D Preview: Serbia

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2010 FIFA World Cup Group D Preview: Serbia
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Brief History

This is Serbia’s first appearance at the World Cup as a single country. They played as Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 and as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at France ‘98.

Prior to that, they played as part of the Yugoslavia national team, representing the Kingdom of Yugoslavia between 1920 - 1941 and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1946 - 1992, reaching the semi finals in 1930 and 1962 and the quarter finals on four other occasions.

Last Time Out

After steamrolling their opponents in qualifying, Serbia were fancied by some to spring a surprise in 2006, but drawn in a tough group against Holland, Argentina and Ivory Coast they crashed out after losing all three games. Best remembered as the team on the wrong end of Argentina’s 26 pass goal.

Coach

Radomir Antic

Played in Yugoslavia, Spain and England as a defender before managing Real, Barcelona and most notably leading Atletico Madrid to their historic league and cup double in 1995-96.

A tactful man-manager and shrewd diplomat, the biggest challenge for Antic will be to prevent the in-fighting that scuppered Serbia’s chances four years ago.

Key Players

Dejan Stankovic

Playing in his third World Cup for a third different team (Yugoslavia, Serbia Montenegro and now Serbia), Stankovic has fallen behind Wesley Sneijder in the Inter pecking order, but remains the playmaker for his country and will be relied upon to make the team tick.

Nemanja Vidic

After a difficult season interrupted by injury and speculation of a move to Real Madrid, Vidic will be under pressure to make amends for 2006, when he missed the first game through suspension and fought with team mate Mateja Kezman before being ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury.

One to Watch

Milos Krasic

A key players in qualifying, Krasic comes into the tournament off the back of another successful season at CSKA Moscow. Along with left-sided counterpart Milan Jovanovic, he will be relied upon to provide pace, width and goal threat. A strong showing could secure a move to a major European club.

Fixtures

Match 8: Serbia vs. Ghana 13/6 16.00 (Pretoria)

Match 21: Germany vs. Serbia 18/6 13.30 (Port Elizabeth)

Match 40: Australia vs. Serbia 23/6 20.30 (Nelspruit)

Prediction

An unpredictable team in an unpredictable group. With Michael Essien ruled out for Ghana and German players dropping like flies, don’t rule out Serbia topping the group.

Vidic and Ivanovic are two of the Premier League’s best defenders and Stankovic, Krasic and Jovanovic are all threats from midfield. If Ajax striker Marko Pantelic and the giant Nikola Zigic combine to score goals, Serbia will be hard to contain.

If they create momentum and escape the group, they could pose a threat to any of the teams they are likely to meet in the early knock out rounds. The again, another implosion or a couple of poor games and Serbia will be going home quickly.

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