Serbia – World Cup Preview
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Serbia might have a tough task to progress from Group D, but they are unlikely to be easy targets for any of their rivals.
They conceded just eight goals in their World Cup qualifying campaign, and secured their tickets to South Africa with one match still to play after a 5-0 win over Romania in Belgrade.
That miserly defence is well marshalled by Manchester United star Nemanja Vidic, who is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in Europe. The 28-year-old has earned 45 caps for his country since his debut in 2002, and has good support from the likes of Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea.
The 2008/9 Premier League player of the year, Vidic is immensely powserful in the air his uncompromising style makes him one of the most feared players in world football.
After losing 2-1 to France early in their qualifying campaign, it looked like Serbia would most likely have to set their sights on finishing runner-up in the group and challenge Austria, Romania and Lithuania for that spot.
But Radomir Antic’s side won their next five games, including a 3-2 win in Romania, to establish themselves at the top of the group and they never looked back.
Serbia are not just a defensive side, they also have power up front, with new Birmingham City signing Nikola Zigic expected to shoulder the responsibility of leading the attack. Zigic, the most imposing of his country’s group of forwards, has scored 16 goals in 45 internationals heading into the tournament.
Danko Lazovic and Mirko Pantelic can also score goals, the former a Zenit St Petersburg striker who has hit the net 10 times in 37 internationals while Ajax man Pantelic contributing six from his 37 games.
This is Serbia’s first appearance at a World Cup Finals, although they did qualify in 2006 as Serbia and Montenegro – that campaign was disappointing as they lost all three group games.