2010 FIFA World Cup: Marko Pantelic Serbia's Enigma?
From the first moment Marko Pantelic attempted to control the ball against Ghana, he was the outstanding candidate for "player-who-went-missing-when-his-country-needed-him-man-of-the-match."
It is difficult to understand how a talented player is able to completely disappear in such a crucial match. Pantelic, however, has shown an alarming precedent for not being able to step up to the big occasion.
In the World Cup Qualifiers, he was often one of the main creative forces (not goalscoring that is, specifically assists) or he was completely non-existent, the "Bermuda Triangle" of Serbian football. His national team games to goal ratio needs no explaining: 33 caps and six goals—not exactly inspiring.
For a player whose form is so lackadaisical, Pantelic is easily one of the most confident or arrogant players (depending on your viewpoint) on the Serbian team, and even amongst those present at the World Cup.
How can a player who is so unreliable have such an arrogance about him? This is a player who wanted a guarantee from his former club, Hertha Berlin, that he would become one of the highest earning players in the Bundesliga, and they also had to guarantee him the position of Director of Football after he retired from the game.
It has to be accepted then that Pantelic is a somewhat confident man. The problem he has to resolve is his inability to be relied upon.
If Serbia is to complete a remarkable turnaround in their chances of progression at the World Cup, then they will need their most important players to show the kind of form that has seen them dubbed tournament "dark horses."
Players such as Pantelic need to show that they have not been given the tag of "great players" and "great team" lightly.
Germany, Serbia's next opponent, have found form at the right time. Their impeccable timing is an indication of a team that has made winning a tradition at the World Cup, which is the grandest stage and toughest proving ground in football.
Serbia and Marko Pantelic have to learn this lesson, and many others quickly, otherwise Serbian football will be forever scarred with the stench of failure.
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