World Ranking: 15th
Best World Cup result: fourth place in 1930 and 1962 (as Yugoslavia)
Manager: Radomir Antic
Serbia will begin forming its soccer legacy this year when the young nation makes its World Cup debut as an independent state on June 13th.
For most of their history, Serbia played under the flag of Yugoslavia. Back in the 2006 World Cup, Serbia competed as Serbia and Montenegro. Amidst injury problems and the knowledge that the nations would soon be separating, the team did not even record a single point.
Now the Balkan nation finally has the chance to step out on its own.
“These little things make a difference,” Serbian star defender Nemanja Vidic told the Daily Telegraph about their forgettable last World Cup.“It’s not that the squad was split but you don’t want to be confronted with these things before the tournament. You want to talk about football, not politics, even if the talk is only in the media.
“Now we are Serbia and the people are excited because it is the first World Cup for us.”
Heading into South Africa, Serbia has had positive results on the world platform. It started during the qualification stage, where it finished ahead of France in their group and handily made it to the World Cup.
In its final three warm-up matches before the start of the tournament, Serbia finished 1-1-1, losing to New Zealand 1-0, drawing Poland 0-0, and defeating Cameroon 4-3.
Vidic missed the friendlies against Poland and Cameroon due to illness, but will be back for the World Cup. The 28-year-old, who plays for Manchester United, will be an important cog in Serbia’s defence. He was a leading figure during qualifying, where a tight back line allowed just one goal in five games.
On the attacking side, Milan Jovanovic will be the player to watch. The new Liverpool transfer is a talented striker who is dangerous from all positions on the field. He led Serbia with five goals in the qualification stage.
In a group with Germany, Ghana, and Australia, Serbia will have to start well in their first match against Ghana to have hope of making it past the group stage.
At least one person believes Serbia will have an astoundingly successful World Cup though, as a professor at the City University London has developed a formula to predict this year’s results. Stefan Szymanski’s theory takes into account each country’s GDP, population, World Cup experience, and home advantage.
The formula predicts that Serbia will make it all the way to the finals, only to lose to Brazil.
June 13 vs. Ghana
June 18 vs. Germany
June 23 vs. Australia