The Serbian national team that participated in the 2006 World Cup is an example of how a team should not react to the obstacles placed in front of them.
A run-down of the Serbian 2006 World Cup goes a little something like this: striker gets injured, coach Ilija Petkovic calls up son as replacement, son leaves after media fury, team is injury ravaged, coach changes team tactics, team loses opening World Cup game, team infighting breaks out, team self-destructs with 6-0 loss against Argentina, team ends up losing every game at World Cup, coach resigns after World Cup, two year stagnation of Serbian football ensues.
The Turning Point
Serbia managed to emerge from this period of upheaval and internal divisions, thanks largely to the change of FA governance, a new outlook, and the hiring of a manager that understood the national psyche.
The current Serbian team has shown a resilience that has been lacking in previous units.
Playing under the name of "Serbia" only (without the previous attachments) has brought out a special kind of patriotism amongst the players.
The sight of individual players giving their all for the national team has become a common occurrence, with the 1-0 victory over Germany becoming the symbol for the turning point in the Serbian football landscape.
Against the Tradition
After the loss to Ghana, the Serbian fans and media slowly began to question and analyse every aspect of the team. With rumours of infighting between vice captain Nemanja Vidic and striker Marko Pantelic (who could start a fight in an empty room), this again had the feel of previous tournament disappointments—it was déjà vu.
But the team managed to ignore all the speculation after the Ghana defeat.
Antic decided to make four major changes to his team. The first being tactical, with the team going from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation. The other three changes were personnel based, with Pantelic, Milijas and Lukovic (one match suspension) going out and Kacar, Subotic and Ninkovic coming in.
The changes seemed to offer Serbia a solid foundation. The team was able to spread the ball and provide their creative players—specifically Krasic—with the service needed to penetrate the German defence.
Serbia’s victory against Germany saw them regain their confidence, prompting many to recognize them as a dark horse contender.
The final piece in Serbia’s historic and symbolic victory was the “help” it received from the referee and some of the German players.
It might be trivial, but the thought of having a referee’s decision going in their favour OR a German player missing a penalty (the first in a World Cup group stage match since 1986) is unheard of for a Serbian supporter.
Hopefully it is more of the same against Australia.
Even so, this team has shown a belief in themselves, which no previous Serbian national team has.
It just might be a case of the Serbian team making their own luck.