Serbia & Montenegro

Population: 10,800,000
Area: 102,350 km²
Capital: Belgrade
Language: Serbian

Serbia & Montenegro went undefeated through UEFA group 7 and qualified directly to the World Cup in front of Spain.
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Mar 01 Tunisia v Serbia & M. 0-1
May 27 Serbia & M. v Uruguay 1-1
May 28 Serbia & M. v Chile

Participations (as Yugoslavia): (9) 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1982, 1990 and 1998
Best placing: Semifinal 1930 and 1962
Topscorer: Drazan Jerkovic, 4 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 11 - SCG v NED  in Leipzig
Jun 16 - SCG v ARG  in Gelsenkirchen
Jun 21 - SCG v CIV  in Munich

- Serbia & Montenegro in Group C -
Jan Alsos: 3rd place
Pierre Boisrond: 3rd place
Ruud Doevendans: 4th place
Mike Gibbons: 4th place
Peter Goldstein: 1st place
Paul Marcuccitti: 3rd place
Felipe Santos: 3rd place
PREDICTION: First round exit


by Mike Gibbons

    By the time you read this, the short history of Serbia and Montenegro (in name at least) may be over. Montenegrins go to the polls on 21st May to vote on whether to separate from Serbia, which if it goes ahead means the former Yugoslavia would now be six different nation states. That’s the big political question in May; the big sporting question in June is whether the footballers that have represented these regions can take their impressive qualifying form into the World Cup proper.

    Whilst Spain, whom they outpointed to qualify automatically, were dealt a nap hand in Group H, Serbia and Montengro were plunged into Group C, the traditional Group of Death, with Argentina, Holland and the Ivory Coast. A tough break, but each side has little choice but to get on with it. Certainly the bravado is there from the coaches and players that they can qualify, and their record in qualifying meant that they were certainly one of the teams (as they were placed in that ludicrous ‘special pot’) that the South American and European giants would rather avoid.

    The success of Serbia and Montenegro in qualifying was based around their self-styled ‘famous four’ defence that kept nine clean sheets in their ten qualifying games. Whilst that may be impressive, they will not be facing shot-shy Spaniards and Belgians in the group phase. Having the ill fortune to be placed in such a tough group means they will be facing far sterner examinations from the Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistelrooy of the Netherlands and Hernan Crespo, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi of Argentina. Three clean sheets in the first round in Germany would be some feat indeed. The coach Ilija Petkovic has yet to lose a competitive match in charge of Serbia and Montenegro, but has his work cut out to preserve that record.

    The members of the famous four are Goran Gavrančiă of Dynamo Kiev, Sevilla's Ivica Dragutinoviă, Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and Mladen Krstajiă of Schalke 04. Of these players Vidic has become the highest in profile after a transfer window move to Manchester United from Spartak Moscow, although so far he has struggled to adapt although has now started to win a regular first team place. He will also miss the game against the Netherlands after receiving a red card in the final qualifier.

    The leader of the back-line and captain of the team is Krstajic, one of the more experienced players in the team who plays his club football for Schalke 04 in Germany. Govrancic at left-back is essentially a centre-half being played out of position, but the understanding between the four is now such that the coach is unlikely to alter things unless injury pervades. Dragutinovic can be a little ill-discipline in his tackling, but despite his seven yellow cards and one red for Sevilla this season his experience at right-back helps account for their rise up the La Liga table.

    Keeping goal behind the famous four is Dragoslav Jevric who plays his club football for Ankaraspor in Turkey. Somewhat overshadowed by the defence in front of him, Jevric was also a key element in their miserly defensive record having played all ten qualifiers and was responsible for some crucial saves, notably in Madrid against Spain.

    Several pundits point to the midfield of Serbia and Montenegro as a possible weak area, although it has far more quality than for which it is given credit. Dejan Stankovic is probably their best known player internationally as he plays his club football in the San Siro for mighty Inter Milan, where he is a regular starter and recently scored a great goal to eliminate Ajax from the Champions League. He is likely to be joined by Zvonomir Vukic, who plays for Portsmouth but is currently on loan to Partizan Belgrade. Another Partizan player, the seasoned Albert Nadj who has previously played in La Liga, has recently come back into the reckoning as has Sasa Ilic, currently with Galatasaray in Turkey.

    Up front the Serbs have Mateja Kezman, who blew hot for PSV Eindhoven then icily cold with Chelsea before resurrecting his career in Spain with Atletico Madrid. Kezman scored five goals in qualifying, none more crucial than the decisive goal over rivals Bosnia-Herzegovina in an emotionally charged qualifying decider in Belgrade last October. He is likely to be joined be Savo Milosevic, the 32 year old also playing in Spain with Osasuna and likely to win his 100th cap at the finals. The top scorer at Euro 2000, Milosevic may not hit those heights again but he knows his way around and his goals have helped lift his current club Osasuna of Spain into the qualifying places for the Champions League.

    Back up will be provided by Nikola Zigic, currently at the one supreme Red Star Belgrade and a transfer target of clubs from England and Spain. Standing at six feet and eight inches tall, perhaps the World Cup won’t miss Jan Koller too badly if he fails to return from injury, and Zigic could be a useful player to throw on if chasing a crucial goal. Daniel Ljuboja, now at Stuttgart after several years in France, should also make the squad.

    First up for Serbia and Montenegro will be the Dutch in Leipzig, followed by Argentina five days later in Gelsenkirchen. As an opening couple of World Cup games it couldn’t really be much tougher, and they will need some results to have something tangible to play for against the Ivory Coast. Beyond that and assuming they qualify either Portugal or Mexico could lay in wait in the second round, but no one ever said the World Cup was easy. The famous four will need to live up to their billing if Serbia and Montenegro are to stay in it beyond June 21st.




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