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Serbia World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Jack Watson
Monday 11 June 2018 15:55 BST
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2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

A surprising number of Serbian players have had stand out seasons for their clubs this year. Nemanja Matic has been one of Manchester United’s most consistent performers, Luka Milivojevic finished Crystal Palace’s top goal scorer, Aleksandar Mitrovic won promotion to the Premier League with Fulham, Aleksandar Kolarov played in a Champions League semi-final, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is reportedly now a United target after enjoying a stellar season with Lazio.

Mladen Krstajic became Serbia manager in October last year and has sought to introduce a tight, defensive-orientated style to the team. Without the injured centre-back Matija Nastasic, Matic and Milivojevic, as well as the whole team, will be responsible for keeping things structured.

Serbia have been bit-part contenders in the World Cup and failed to qualify for Brazil 2014, but historically have had some success. In the inaugural 1930 World Cup and in 1962, Serbia – as Yugoslavia – finished fourth, their highest finish to date.

Fixtures

Costa Rica vs Serbia – 13:00, Sunday 17 June
Serbia vs Switzerland – 19:00, Friday 22 June
Serbia vs Brazil – 19:00, Wednesday 27 June

Key players

Nemanja Matic: Serbia’s fifth-highest capped player, Matic is one of Serbia’s most important players. Alongside Luka Milivojevic in a 4-2-3-1 formation, they will have to remain disciplined to retain defensive structure, then be assertive on the ball to begin counter attacks. This will be a slightly different role for Matic to his United one, having become accustomed to dominating possession from the midfield.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Aged 23, Milinkovic-Savic is a hugely promising attacking midfielder. He fell out with the former Serbia manager Slavolijub Muslin, who was then replaced, showing how important Serbia consider Milinkovic-Savic to be to their future. He can play anywhere in midfield but has shown a particularly handy eye for goals, as well as possessing good strength to hold up the ball for others.

Aleksandar Mitrovic: After being cast aside by Rafa Benitez at Newcastle for not being fit enough, Mitrovic was given a lifeline by Fulham when he joined the Cottagers on loan in February. The Serbian striker scored 12 goals in 17 important matches as Fulham narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League, but went up through the play-offs.

Nemanja Matic will play a key role in Serbia's World Cup campaign (Getty)

Ones to watch

Luka Jovic: Luka Jovic made his debut for the Serbia first team on 4 June after already being named in the World Cup squad. The uncapped forward came on in the 84th minute in place of Mitrovic in a friendly match against Chile. Contracted to Benfica and on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt, Jovic has all the attributes of a talented forward. He’s quick, agile and skilful, but his decision-making and final product needs to come on if he is going to help Serbia make it out of their group.

How did they get here?

Serbia topped their qualifying group ahead of Republic of Ireland, Wales, Austria, Georgia, and Moldova. The group was won by just two points, with victory against Moldova in the final game proving vital.

How will they do?

Getting out of their group ahead will be a tough ask for Serbia, given a similar group of players did not even make it to the 2016 European Championship. Victory against Brazil is near-impossible and their chances of beating Costa Rica or Switzerland are slim, so we can expect an early flight back for the side.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Vladimir Stojkovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Marko Dmitrovic.

Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov, Antonio Rukavina, Milan Rodic, Branislav Ivanovic, Uros Spajic, Milos Veljkovic, Dusko Tosic, Nikola Milenkovic.

Midfielders: Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Marko Grujic, Dusan Tadic, Andrija Zivkovic, Filip Kostic, Nemanja Radonjic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Adem Ljajic.

Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Prijovic, Luka Jovic.

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