Serbia Camp Focus – Premature dent to World Cup optimism

In the space of 10 days the early buzzing around Serbia to be this year’s World Cup dark horses has been dealt a blow. After some awful displays in the past two friendlies against Poland and the predicted whipping boys this summer New Zealand, it has left the Serbian fans in disarray. It can be easy to look too much into these games, after all they are just warm-up matches, but lacklustre performances against relatively poor opposition are hardly a vote of confidence.

The fans did not hold back their anger in their friendly in Austria against New Zealand, and in the second half, began rioting. Burning flares, bottles and missiles were launched on to the pitch in attempt to demonstrate their distraught feelings. Stand-in captain Nemanja Vidic even had to act as peace-maker over the stadium microphone, to prevent the game getting abandoned. Although it was an experimental side, the players did not reach any rhythm in the match and were perhaps fortunate to lose by the single goal.

There was a chance for redemption to the public four days later when they took on the Polish, but once more failed to show their ability in a 0-0 draw. In treacherous conditions they continued their lethargic approach and where probably lucky to not lose, when Robert Lewandowski’s shot from close range was blocked. There had to be two intervals as the fans invaded the pitch, but the scenes where not as chaotic as in their previous game. Vidic assured the fans that once the tournament starts, the fans will see the real ability of their side: “I believe that there is no reason for concern because there is enough time to get everything in place. The Coach will definitely try some more formations and give other players a chance. But all these are preparation matches; our main goal is to be in South Africa.” There has been a lot of expectation all of a sudden that the Serbs could cause a stir in the tournament. With the right mixture of youth and experience, along with bundles of technical ability, they will be a danger for anyone, but need to prevent these non-competitive games from affecting their morale.

The White Eagles Coach Radomir Antic has also finalised his final 23-man squad for South Africa by withdrawing, as expected, Zelijko Brkic from his squad. The goalkeeper was in the preliminary squad to battle for the final goalkeeping position, but hasn’t convinced his Coach he is ready. The squad includes familiar faces to Premier League fans, in Vidic (Manchester United), Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Birmingham City new-boy Nikola Zigic, who completed a £6m transfer from Valencia last week. The giant striker has said he is confident this time around he can show his ability on the biggest stage, unlike four years ago: “I have changed a lot. I went to Germany as player with no reputation or real experience to speak of. Tactically, I have learned a lot and I’m in much better condition, both physically and psychologically. This is my World Cup, I think I can play a lead role and I want to show I’m a player that can do it in big games.”

Another player to come out and back his team was Ivanovic, who said his team will treat every match as a final to ensure the fans or themselves are not let down. “We qualified in first position ahead of France, which was very good for us. We did a lot of good things and we have to continue to play like we did in the qualifiers. But of course, the World Cup is completely different to the qualifiers. If you make a mistake, it is very difficult.” he said. Players like Ivanovic will be vital for Serbia this time around if they are to correct the mistakes of last time. With such a frail defence in Germany, aided with Vidic’s absence, they conceded 10 goals in the group stage. However their chances this summer are more optimistic, especially as they are not in the ‘Group of Death’ unlike before. Antic will be telling his players to keep calm and that friendlies are not a measure of a team’s ability. The Coach has stated his confidence in his side and must install it back into the players for their clash against Ghana on Sunday. A decent performance will need to be produced if the Serbian players are to restore any hope back into their cynical fans.


Vladimir Stojkovic (Sporting)
Bojan Isailovic (Zaglebie Lubin)
Andjelko Djuricic (Uniao Leiria).


Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
Antonio Rukavina (1860 Munich)
Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund)
Aleksandar Lukovic (Udinese)
Ivan Obradovic (Zaragoza)
Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio).


Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan)
Gojko Kacar (Hertha Berlin)
Nenad Milijas (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Zdravko Kuzmanovic (VfB Stuttgart)
Radosav Petrovic (Partizan Belgrade)
Milos Krasic (CSKA Moscow)
Zoran Tosic (Manchester United)
Milos Ninkovic (Dynamo Kiev)
Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liege).


Nikola Zigic (Birmingham City)
Marko Pantelic (Ajax Amsterdam)
Danko Lazovic (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Dragan Mrdja (Vojvodina Novi Sad)


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