Serbia will look to progress beyond the group stages at the World Cup for the first time since the break-up of Yugoslavia, but face a difficult task having been drawn with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica in Group E.
Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma)
Serbia topped Group D of the European qualifying section ahead of Republic of Ireland and Wales, losing just one of their ten group stage matches. Though Ireland and Wales also only lost once, Serbia trumped their two group rivals thanks to winning more – six games, to be exact.
They claimed 13 of their 21 points at home, including the win in Belgrade against Georgia in the final round of fixtures, which sealed their World Cup spot. Aleksandar Prijovic scored the goal which sent Serbia to the World Cup, but Aleksandar Mitrovic was the Group D top scorer with six goals in total.
Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbia have failed to advance beyond the group stages at the World Cup. As Serbia and Montenegro, they lost all three group games at the 2006 tournament – conceding ten goals in the process – while as Serbia they were eliminated in the group stage in South Africa too.
They failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2014, making this only their second tournament since the split with Montenegro.
Defender Matija Nastasic misses the World Cup after suffering a knee ligament injury playing for Schalke 04. The former Manchester City man was in Switzerland’s provisional 27-man longlist but could not prove his fitness in time to make the final 23. Rising star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic made the cut, however, unlike fit-again Zoran Tosic – who missed out on even making the preliminary list despite a goalscoring return from injury with Partizan Belgrade.
Serbia boast plenty of experience in defence, with Branislav Ivanovic a veteran of more than 100 caps, and Aleksandar Kolarov captaining the team after playing a part in Roma’s Champions League performances in his first season since leaving Manchester City. Younger stars include Aleksandar Mitrovic, who took full advantage if his loan move to Fulham by regaining his goalscoring touch in the second half of the season. He also scored twice in Serbia’s defeat of Nigeria in that time. Big things are expected of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, meanwhile, and despite his inexperience he could become a key member of this squad.
D L W L W
Serbia wrapped up World Cup qualification by beating Georgia 1-0 in Belgrade and have won three of their six friendlies since. Two 2-0 wins, against China and Nigeria, in which Aleksandar Mitrovic scored three of the four Serbian goals, bookended a 1-1 draw with South Korea and a 2-1 defeat to Morocco. They then lost 1-0 to Chile before Mitrovic fired a hat-trick as Serbia wrapped up their preparations with a 5-1 win against Bolivia.
1 – Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan) – Age 34 – 81 caps/0 goals
12 – Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar) – Age 26 – 2 caps/0 goals
23 – Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv) – Age 22 – 8 caps/0 goals
2 – Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal) – Age 34 – 47 caps/0 goals
3 – Dusko Tosic (Guangzhou R&F) – Age 33 – 24 caps/1 goal
5 – Uros Spajic (Krasnodar) – Age 25 – 5 caps/0 goals
6 – Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit St Petersburg) – Age 34 – 103 caps/13 goals
11 – Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma) – Age 32 – 76 caps/10 goals
13 – Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen) – Age 22 – 2 caps/0 goals
14 – Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade) – Age 27 – 1 cap/0 goals
15 – Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina) – Age 20 – 3 caps/0 goals
4 – Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace) – Age 27 – 28 caps/1 goal
7 – Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica) – Age 21 – 10 caps/0 goals
10 – Dusan Tadic (Southampton) – Age 29 – 53 caps/13 goals
16 – Marko Grujic (Cardiff City) – Age 22 – 8 caps/0 goals
17 – Filip Kostic (Hamburg) – Age 25 – 23 caps/2 goals
18 – Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade) – Age 22 – 3 caps/0 goals
20 – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) – Age 23 – 4 caps/0 goals
21 – Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) – Age 29 – 40 caps/2 goals
22 – Adem Ljajic (Torino) – Age 26 – 29 caps/6 goals
8 – Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK) – Age 28 – 9 caps/1 goal
9 – Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – Age 23 – 37 caps/16 goals
19 – Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – Age 20 – 1 cap/0 goals
Serbia are narrow outsiders in their battle with Switzerland to reach the World Cup last-16, with Brazil expected to win Group E.
You can back Serbia to go through at 6/5 with Bet365, but Switzerland were in excellent form in World Cup qualifying and look to have regained that touch – Serbia are 4/6 to fail to qualify from the group with Bet365 as a result.
If they did finish second, it would likely be behind Brazil, however, so if you do believe in their chances, then back a forecast of 1st – Brazil, 2nd – Serbia at 9/4 with Bet365.
As long as they beat Costa Rica first up, Serbia should not finish bottom of Group E, however – they are 11/4 to finish in fourth place, but Los Ticos, despite their heroics four years ago, are favourites for a reason.
Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbia have not advanced beyond the World Cup group stages. This could be one of their best chances, but Switzerland have the slight edge behind Brazil in Group E, and if they fail to beat their fellow Europeans, a group-stage exit looks likely for Serbia.
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Complete list of 32 teams participating in World Cup 2018 and their Group Predictions