Team Profile: Serbia
- Coach: Radomir Antic.
- Goalkeepers: Vladimir Stojkovic (Sporting Lisbon/Portugal), Bojan Isailovic (Zaglebie Lubin/Poland), Andjelko Djuricic (Uniao Leiria/Portugal)
- Defenders: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea/England), Antonio Rukavina (1860 Munich/Germany), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United/England), Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund/Germany), Aleksandar Lukovic (Udinese/Italy), Ivan Obradovic (Real Zaragoza/Spain), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio/Italy)
- Midfielders: Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan/Italy), Gojko Kacar (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Nenad Milijas (Wolverhampton/England), Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Stuttgart/Germany), Radosav Petrovic (Partizan Belgrade), Milos Krasic (CSKA Moscow/Russia), Zoran Tosic (Manchester United/England), Milos Ninkovic (Dynamo Kyiv/Ukraine), Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liege/Belgium)
- Forwards: Nikola Zigic (Birmingham/England), Marko Pantelic (Ajax/Netherlands), Danko Lazovic (Zenit St. Petersburg/Russia), Dragan Mrdja (Vojvodina Novi Sad)
Style of play: Although coach Radomir Antic stresses defensive organization at all times, he uses an attacking 4-4-2 formation, employing two wingers (Milan Jovanovic and Milos Krasic) and two forwards (Nikola Zigic and Marko Pantelic). Dejan Stankovic and Nenad Milijas team up to handle both the defensive and playmaking duties in the central midfield, with the later playing in a more advanced position. Serbia can create scoring chances one of two ways: 1) with a tight passing and possession game, working the ball around before venturing forward and crashing into the penalty box, or 2) playing long balls up to their towering strikers, capitalizing on their height and strength to get the better of opposing defenders. They also like to hit teams on the counter-attack, usually down the wings via the speedy Jovanovic and Krasic, and are very dangerous on set pieces.
1st round matches:
- June 13 vs. Ghana in Pretoria
- June 18 vs. Germany in Port Elizabeth
- June 23 vs. Australia in Nelspruit
Projected starting lineup (4-5-1): (GK) Vladimir Stojkovic - (D) Aleksandar Lukovic, Nemanja Vidic, Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Kolarov - (M) Dejan Stankovic, Nenad Milijas, Milan Jovanovic, Milos Krasic - (F) Nikola Zigic, Marko Pantelic
- Midfield depth: Serbia has plenty of quality options in the centre of the park, including Dejan Stankovic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Milan Jovanovic and Milos Krasic. Zoran Tosic and Gojko Kacar are strong coming off the bench, and even defenders Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksandar Lukovic can play in midfield.
- Tactically sound: Coach Radomir Antic has the White Eagles flying high, instilling the team with a tactical identity. Every player knows his role, with the defenders called upon to venture forward in attack and the attacking midfielders expected to protect the defence. Defensive solidity and keeping a strong shape at all times are the pillars of Antic's tactical system.
- Confidence: The Serbs are feeling pretty good about themselves after winning their qualifying group ahead of France, 2006 World Cup finalists. The Flying Eagles are a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to a strong sense of unity that has seen the team through some tough times.
- Goalkeeping: Serbia doesn't have a clear-cut No. 1 goalkeeper ahead of the tournament - regular starter Vladimir Stojkovic did not play regularly for Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League this past season. Does coach Radomir Antic go with him? Or does he gamble on one of his inexperienced back-ups, Zeljko Brkic or Bojan Isailovic?
- Lack of forwards: Nikola Zigic can score goals with the best of them, but he's coming off an average season with Valencia. What's more, he is Serbia's only dangerous scoring threat up front, which means if he gets injured or suspended, the White Eagles are going to be in big trouble.
- History of implosion: Despite having talent, Serbia has fallen apart on more than one occasion since the breakup of Yugoslavia. Serbia and Montenegro was touted as a dark horse pick four years ago in Germany, but bowed out in disgrace in the first round. Since separating from Montenegro, the Serbs failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Players to watch:
- Dejan Stankovic - Stankovic at his best is a complete midfielder. He can slot into a holding position when the goal is under siege or take the lead and ignite an attack with a penetrating pass. What's more, Stankovic has a heavy foot and is always willing to shoot from distance.
- Nemanja Vidic - The Manchester United defender is feared for his ruthless style of play. His intimidating physique and aggressive temperament have helped the Serb win the respect of legion of United fans, and solidify his stature as one of the best defenders in the world.
- Nikola Zigic - Zigic is more than just a hulking centre forward. He has a precise touch that can provide a crisp pass and a clean strike. Nevertheless, Zigic harnesses his stature, and all the strength provided through that solid frame, to manhandle smaller, weaker defenders.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Defender Ivica Dragutinovic (Achilles tendon) and midfielder Bosko Jankovic (knee) will miss the World Cup due to injuries. Coach Radomir Antic cut the following players from his preliminary squad: goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic; defenders Slobodan Rajkovic and Jagos Vukovic; midfielders Nemanja Matic, Nemanja Tomic and Crvena Zvezda; forwards Miralem Sulejmani and Dejan Lekic.
Prognosis: Quarter-finals. Goalkeeping is an issue that Antic has to figure out, and he had better pray that striker Nikola Zigic doesn't get injured, because he doesn't have another quality striker to call upon. Despite these two problems, Serbia is in good shape and has to be considered one of the tournament's dark horses. Well organized in defence, and bound by a great sense of team unity and a clear tactical identity, the Serbs are capable of beating any top team in this tournament. Look for them to get out of the group stage and go in a nice little run.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #15
- Qualification route: Serbia finished in first place (22 points) in Europe's Group 7 ahead of France (21 points).
- Key to qualification: Team effort. The Serbs impressively topped their group ahead of France, runners-up at the 2006 World Cup, thanks to a total team effort, with the defenders making offensive contributions and the attacking midfielders supporting the back four.
- Crucial result: A comprehensive 5-0 win over Romania (Oct. 10, 2009 in Belgrade) wrapped up first place in the group for the Serbs, forcing France into the European playoffs.
- Qualifying record: 10 games played, 7 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses
- Goals for: 22
- Goals against: 8
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Milan Jovanovic (5)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Serbia 2, Faroe Islands 0
- Sept. 10, 2008 - France 2, Serbia 1
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Serbia 3, Lithuania 0
- Oct. 15, 2008 - Austria 1, Serbia 3
- March 28, 2009 - Romania 2, Serbia 3
- June 6, 2009 - Serbia 1, Austria 0
- June 10, 2009 - Faroe Islands 0, Serbia 2
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Serbia 1, France 1
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Serbia 5, Romania 0
- Oct. 14, 2009 - Lithuania 2, Serbia 1
SERBIA AT THE WORLD CUP
From 1930 to 1990, Yugoslavia was a regular participant at the World Cup. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed in 1992, but because of the international sanctions due to the Yugoslav wars, the country was banned from the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia advanced to the second round of the 1998 World Cup, but did not qualify for the 2002 tournament.
In 2003, the name of the country changed, and Serbia and Montenegro competed at the 2006 World Cup. In 2006, Serbia and Montenegro became separate nations, leading to the formation of the Serbian national team.
World Cup track record
- Number of World Cup appearances: 10
- All-time record: 40 games played, 16 wins, 8 draws, 16 losses
- Goals for: 62
- Goals against: 56
- Biggest victory: 9-0 vs. Zaire in 1974
- Biggest defeat: 6-0 vs. Argentina in 2006
- Overall top scorer: Drazan Jerkovic (4 goals)
- Most appearances: Ivan Surjak and Dragan Stojkovic (9 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
- 1930 - Semifinals (3rd place)
- 1934 - Did not qualify
- 1938 - Did not qualify
- 1950 - First round
- 1954 - Quarter-finals
- 1958 - Quarter-finals
- 1962 - Semifinals (4th place)
- 1966 - Did not qualify
- 1970 - Did not qualify
- 1974 - Second round
- 1978 - Did not qualify
- 1982 - First Round
- 1986 - Did not qualify
- 1990 - Quarter-finals
- 1994 - Banned because of international sanctions
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
- 1998 - Second round
- 2002 - Did not qualify
Serbia and Montenegro
- 2006 - First round
- FIFA member since: 1923
- Team nickname: Beli Orlovi (White Eagles)
- All-time caps leader: Savo Milosevic (102)
- All-time leading scorer: Savo Milosevic (37 goals)
Notable Achievements (as Yugoslavia)
- Under-20 World Champions: 1987
- Under-21 European Champions: 1978
- Under-19 European Champions: 1951, 1979
- Olympic Gold Medal: 1960
- Olympic Silver Medal: 1948, 1952, 1956
- Olympic Bronze Medal: 1984
- Dragan Dzajic: A speedy winger renowned for his incredible dribbling skills. He scored 23 goals in a record 85 appearances for Yugoslavia from 1964-79, but is best known for a legendary goal he scored against England in the semifinals of Euro 1968 to knock the reigning World champions out of the competition.
- Stjepan Bobek: Yugoslavia's all-time leading scorer with 38 goals in 63 games from 1946-56. Aside from playing in two World Cups (1950 and 1954), he also appeared in two Olympics, helping Yugoslavia win silver medals in 1948 and 1952. He is considered the greatest player in the history of Yugoslav club FK Partizan, scoring 403 goals in 468 games.