Serbia may have lost seven of the last nine World Cup matches they’ve played, but today it doesn’t mean anything. In the Qualifiers, the Serbs snatched the ticket to Qatar even ahead of Portugal & Cristiano Ronaldo, topping Group A. Their attacking potential is envied across the world.
How do they play?
Looking at their forwards, it should come as no surprise that Dragan Stojkovic puts a lot of emphasis on the attack. When he was appointed as the national team’s head coach last spring, Stojkovic immediately announced: “We want to play attractive football and score a lot of goals.” In doing so, they changed the formation to play with only three at the back. Thus, the coach nicknamed “Piks” can put two big strikers on the field at the same time, both Dušan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic. To make matters worse, they are backed by some of the most creative midfielders in the world – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Dušan Tadic. Add in wingers Filip Koštic and Andrija Zivkovic for precision passes from the sides and you can tell Stojkovic is not mincing his words.
Why they can win?
Serbia shouldn’t lack confidence. Although they did not qualify for last year’s EUROs, winning their respective Qualifying Group ahead of Portugal should inject confidence into everyone. They didn’t stop there. Serbia also beat Sweden, Norway and Slovenia in a row in the Nations League. Their results have been excellent and Serbia is trending upwards. Of course, knowing that Dušan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic are one of the most dangerous strikers in the Italian and English leagues is also encouraging.
Why they can lose?
Whereas Serbia has wonderful attacking prowess, the same can’t be said about their defense. In the previous European Championship Qualifiers, the Serbs scored a mighty 20 goals in ten games, yet they conceded as many as 19. In the World Cup Qualifiers, things were a bit better, but Portugal and Ireland still conceded fewer goals than the Serbians. Considering that their opening match is against Brazil, this could quickly offset their hopes of a good tournament.
The leading stars
Serbia will be led by four men – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dušan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Dušan Vlahovic. All are world-class players in their positions. According to Lazio, the price tag for Milinkovic-Savic has already risen to 120 million euros. Since Tadic is already 33 years old, he is no longer as expensive, but on the other hand, he has a fantastic CV. For example, he has been the assist king of the Eredivisie six times and has been chosen as the best football player in Serbia on three occasions. Mitrovic has scored 50 goals for the Serbian national team, a number that speaks for itself. As for Vlahovic, Juventus paid 70 million euros to Fiorentina in last year’s mid-winter transfer window.
The fresh faces
Strahinja Pavlovic has been in the Serbian national team for several years now, so it’d be easy to forget that he is only 21 years old. Despite this, he has decent experience under his belt from Partizan Belgrade and the Serbian league. Pavlovic has also played two seasons in Monaco, was on loan in both Bruges and Basel and has now reached Salzburg. He is a powerful left-footed central defender and is expected to play a big role in Serbia’s performance.