Factfile on Serbia who are in World Cup Group G:
Best World Cup performance: Group stage in 2010 and 2018 (Yugoslavia reached semi-finals in 1930 and 1962).
Other notable performances: Yugoslavia were European Championship runners-up in 1960 and 1968.
FIFA ranking: 21.
Main clubs: Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade.
How they qualified: Winners of European qualifying Group A ahead of Portugal.
Coach: Dragan Stojkovic, 57, was appointed in February last year to succeed Ljubisa Tumbakovic, who was sacked after Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2020. He then led Serbia through an unbeaten qualifying campaign, with a last-gasp win in Portugal in their final game seeing them top their group. Stojkovic’s Serbia also topped their Nations League group to win promotion to the top tier. Stojkovic made 84 appearances for the former Yugoslavia between 1983 and 2001, and was one of the first top-tier European players to venture into Japanese football. There he spent eight years at J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight, playing under Arsene Wenger. Briefly served as chairman of Red Star Belgrade, for whom he also played. Coached in Japan and China before taking his current job.
Key player: Serbia have formidable attacking options, nore more so than Dusan Vlahovic. The 22-year-old forward is a robust presence up front but does not lack for pace or skill. After starting out at Partizan Belgrade, he joined Fiorentina and quickly became a prolific goal-scorer in Serie A. That earned him a 70 million-euro move to Juventus last January. In Turin he has so far averaged almost a goal every second game despite his club’s recent struggles. Given his age, his peak years still lie in the future, but Serbia will hope he thrives on the World Cup stage in Qatar.
Expectations and key players according to Milan Zdravkovic, Sputnik Serbia:
“Four years after debacle in Russia when got out after the group phase, Serbia is coming to Qatar in big mood and with big expectations. Led by legendary Dragan Stojkovic Piksi, captain from WC 1998 in France, Serbia qualified in big style winning last round game against Portugal in Lisbon and being first in our qualification group. Piksi took the helm after disappointing defeat to Scotland in EURO 2020 qualification and transformed one obscure team into one of the best squads in Europe. His vision from first day is that Serbia need to play attractive and attacking football, for the people and he is sticking to the process with no change. The result is there, and after good spell in UEFA Nations league where Serbia was first in group in front of Norway and Sweden. So expectations this time are high and we are convinced that we can get to the second round, although we are in tough group with Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon. Serbians believe that their one of favourite former players Piksi knows how to take this team far in World Cup.”
“Key player is certainly Aleksandar Mitrovic recorder in national team in terms of scored goals. Also Dusan Tadic, Dusan Vlahovic, Sergej Milinkovic Savic and Filip Kostic are players that gives this team heart and soul and if they show maturity Serbia can be a big surprise in Qatar this winter.”
November 24: Brazil v Serbia.
November 28: Cameroon v Serbia.
December 2: Serbia v Switzerland.
Goalkeepers: Marko Dmitrovic (Sevilla), Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca), Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino).
Defenders: Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Filip Mladenovic (Legia Warsaw), Strahinja Erakovic (Red Star Belgrade), Srdjan Babic (Almeria).
Midfielders: Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Sasa Lukic (Torino), Marko Grujic (Porto), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Uros Racic (Braga), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Hellas Verona), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona).
Forwards: Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Filip Duricic (Sampdoria), Luka Jovic (Fiorentina), Nemanja Radonji (Torino).
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