May 17, 2006
Random World Cup Facts: Serbia & Montenegro
Times Qualified: 2
Best Finish: 2nd Round (1998 as Yugoslavia)
Top Political Issue: Montenegro goes to the polls this weekend to vote on its independence from Belgrade. The European Union has said that it needs 55 percent of the vote in favor of independence to gain official recognition.
Football in Serbia: Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia has struggled in comparison to Croatia. Seemingly constant war has taken a toll on the sport that has only just begun to recover. The current team relies on its miserly defense to grind out results. The fact that they only conceded one goal in qualifying is a testament to their defensive skill.
The Serbian Superliga is not considered an elite league by any measure. The two dominant sides, Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, dominate over the rest of the league. With more lucrative options available in the rest of Europe, many players choose to play abroad.
Players to Watch: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) is suspended for the first match, but the giant defender will be important in keeping opponents off the board. Savo Milosevic (Osasuna) is captaining the team, and as Serbia's record goalscorer may have to be called upon to bring them back from deficits.
Chances: Serbia will be hoping to pull off performances like Greece did two years ago. However, they will not be facing sides with the attacking quality of Lithuania and San Marino in this tournament. Instead, all three of their opponents are capable of scoring for fun.
Prediction: I just don't see them making much of an impact here. Fourth place in the group.