Placed in what is considered to be a rather tough group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Serbia, who have a quite decent record in the history of their participation in the World Cup, are expected to prove themselves and rise up to the challenge.
The Eagles, which is what the Serbia national football team are usually called, have participated 11 times in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup and qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia means that this will be their 12th time performing on the biggest stage in the world of football.
Serbia, now coached by former international defender Mladen Krstajic and led by captain and star man Aleksandar Kolarov could pose a threat as the dark horses in this edition of World Cup.
Road to Russia
Serbia had it pretty easy in the UEFA qualifying rounds for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They were placed in group D in the first round of the qualifier, alongside the likes of Republic of Ireland, Wales, Austria, Georgia, and Moldova.
The Eagles were hugely impressive as they managed to qualify from the group and advance directly to the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, finishing top spot on the table, collecting 21 points from 6 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss, while scoring 20 goals and conceding 10 in the process.
Managed by former Lille OSC defender Slavoljub Muslin at that time, Serbia were a force considered to be one of the toughest to face in Europe, but the former was sacked on October 2017 despite already taking the national team to the World Cup, and replaced by one of his coaching staff member Mladen Krstajic. Could Serbia keep their impressive form from the qualifying rounds going in Russia? We shall see.
Style of Play
In the UEFA qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, under Slavo Muslin, Serbia usually play with a 5-4-1 flat formation which could sometimes be modified into a 3-4-3 flat formation. These tactics proved to be more effective when deployed by Serbia which is reflected by their remarkable record in the qualifier, where they managed to bag 8 wins, 5 draws, and only 2 losses from 15 matches meaning that their winning record was around 54% at that time.
Meanwhile, after being handled by Krstajic, Serbia switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation mainly but could transform into a 4-3-3 offensive or a 4-1-4-1 sometimes. They seemed quite comfortable playing in the centre of the field instead of the wider side.
Alone at the frontline, strong towering striker Aleksandar Mitrovic would be acting as a target man for Krstajic’s side, trying to hold the ball off, keep the ball, or bounce it to the midfield if he’s unable to find a space in the opposition half. He’s a strong header of the ball and he has a good finishing, combine those two with his intelligence in finding the perfect position in the final third, he’s definitely a menacing man no opposition should underestimate.
Dusan Tadic and Filip Kostic are likely to play in the right wing and left wing respectively while younger and quicker Andrija Zivkovic and Nemanja Radonjic could be expected as a second-half substitute or a rotational player. Aleksandar Mitrovic would be hoping to get a proper service for him in the World Cup via crosses from the flanks and the presence of Tadic and Kostic could definitely help. Torino talisman Adem Ljajic is highly likely to start at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as the central attacking midfielder for Serbia.
The two in the central part of the field would be the Manchester United target, Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and current Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic. Both players could destroy the opposition’s play and disrupt their tempo, but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic would be expected to contribute much more to the attack considering the player’s creativity and vision.
In the defence, Serbia captain Aleksandar Kolarov and experienced right-back Branislav Ivanovic should be expected to play a key part in the defence as the first-choice fullbacks, while central defenders Nikola Milenkovic and Dusko Tosic are likely to become a duet as the centre-backs for Serbia. Meanwhile, veteran goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic seemed irreplaceable as the coach’s favourite goalkeeper.
The Coach: Mladen Krstajic
The 44-year-old former Serbia and Montenegro international defender Mladen Krstajic only took over as the head coach of the Serbia National football team in October 2017, replacing Slavoljub Muslin. Initially, as a caretaker, it is later announced that he would take charge permanently, at least until the end of World Cup.
Krstajic who only has little experience in the world of football manager would bear the heavy expectations laid on him and his squad.
The Serbia coach has had a decent record in the last few international games that he managed, achieving a winning record of 50%.
Key Player: Nemanja Matic
It’s hard to pick only one player out of a generally impressive team like Serbia. Every player seems to be playing an important part in their respective positions, but if I really have to pick just one, that would be Nemanja Matic.
The 29-year-old midfielder has a seemingly endless stamina and creativity. He could also unleash a powerful shot, usually on the volley, where the ball dropped right in front of him, from just right outside the box where he usually waits.
But what the opponents fear of him is usually his amazing defensive abilities. Able to read opposition’s gameplay and stop them before they could create any meaningful chance in the defensive third and has a good technique when it comes to stealing the ball, Matic is considered as a solid defensive midfielder with solid attributes.
Other players that would be expected play a pivotal role for Serbia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia are Adem Ljajic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Dusan Tadic.
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