Serbia topped their group to qualify, but the Serbian FA still sacked the head coach, Slavoljub Muslin.
Serbia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide
Serbia vs Switzerland (22nd June) Match Report
Switzerland Starting XI: 1 Yann Sommer, 2 Stefan Lichtsteiner, 5 Manuel Akanji, 9 Haris Seferovic (18 Mario Gavranovic), 10 Granit Xhaka, 11 Valon Behrami, 13 Ricardo Rodriguez, 14 Steven Zuber (19 Josip Drmic 90+3), 15 Blerim Dzemaili (7 Breel Embolo 73), 22 Fabian Schar, 23 Xherden Shaqiri
Serbia Starting XI: 1 Vladimir Stojkovic, 3 Dusko Tosic, 4 Luka Milivojevic (18 Nemanja Radonjic 81), 6 Branislav Ivanovic, 9 Aleksandar Mitrovic, 10 Dusan Tadic, 11 Aleksandar Kolarov, 15 Nikola Milenkovic, 17 Filip Kostic (22 Adem Llajic 64), 20 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 21 Nemanja Matic
Serbia 1 Switzerland 2
Serbia: Mitrovic 5
Switzerland: Xhaka 51, Shakiri 90
Xherden Shaqiri inspired Switzerland to a dramatic recovery and victory in an enthralling all-European encounter. Serbia took an early lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic and were the better, more balanced side in the first half. But the Swiss played their way back into the game when Granit Xhaka equalised with an unstoppable shot early in the second half. Serbia were aggrieved that VAR was not used when Mitrovic was wrestled back by two Swiss defenders but they continued to press for a winner. A midfielder, Luka Milivojevic, was replaced an attacker, Nemanja Radonjic, but Serbia were caught on the break by the outstanding Shaqiri.
Grant Xhaka made the sign of an Albanian eagle as he celebrated his goal – a reference to Serbia’s role in the Yugoslav civil war, when his Kosovan father was imprisoned by the Serbs.
Possession (%): 42/58
Goal attempts: 12/20
Attempts on target: 7/8
Pass accuracy (%): 77/87
Distance covered (km): 116/112
Serbia vs Costa Rica (17th June) Match Report
In a game tough to predict, Serbia face Costa Rica in the opening game of the day. Match preview here.
Costa Rica Starting XI: 1 Jesus Navas, 2 Johnny Acosta, 3 Giancarlo Gonzalez, 5 Celso Borges, 6 Oscar Duarte, 10 Bryan Ruiz, 11 Johan Venegas (7 Christian Bolanos 60), 15 Francisco Calvo, 16 Cristian Gamboa, 20 David Guzman (9 Daniel Colindres 73, 21 Marco Urena (12 Joel Campbell 67)
Serbia Starting XI: 1 Vladimir Stojkovic, 2 Dusko Tosic, 4 Luka Milivojevic, 6 Branislav Ivanovic, 9 Aleksandar Mitrovic, 10 Dusan Tadic (2 Antonio Rukavina 82), 11 Aleksandar Kolarov, 15 Nikola Milenkovic (8 Aleksandar Prijovic 89), 20 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 21 Nemanja Matic, 22 Adam Ljajic (17 Filip Kostic 70)
Costa Rica 0 Serbia 1
Costa Rica: none
Serbia: Kolarov 56
A stunning free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov sealed victory for Serbia in their opening match of the tournament. Serbia should have won by a bigger margin but Aleksandar Mitrovic and the otherwise impressive Sergej Milinkovic-Savic but could not find a way past keeper Keylor Navas.
Costa Rica had an early chance when an unmarked Giancarlo Gonzalez headed over but they rarely threatened the Serbia goal after that. Two of their senior stars, Christian Bolanos and Joel Campbell, were brought on in the second half but they could not find the equaliser.
Matter of fact
Branislav Ivanovic made his 104th senior appearance for Serbia, overtaking Dejan Stankovic (103) to become his country’s most capped player.
Serbia’s captain Kolarov had been an injury doubt before the game, and pulled up early in the second half, but he stepped up to take the free-kick that sealed the win for Serbia.
Goal attempts: 10/10
Attempts on target: 3/5
Pass accuracy: 83/83
Distance covered: 107/109
Serbia World Cup Guide
Having failed to qualify for the last three major tournaments, Serbia made it to the 2018 World Cup –against all the odds – as group winners. However, it was a mixed campaign, at the end of which the Serbian FA sacked coach Slavoljub Muslin, whose 3-4-3 system was regarded as being too defensive – even though Serbia scored 20 goals.
Key Moments in Qualifying
Having allowed Austria to twice come from behind in Belgrade, Dusan Tadic scores the winner in a 3-2 victory.
Aleksandar Mitrovic equalises in the 86th minute in Wales before Gareth Bale hits a post for the hosts in a 1-1 draw.
Despite playing for more than 25 minutes with 10 men when centre-back Nikola Maksimovic was sent off, Serbia hold on for a 1-0 win away to Republic of Ireland.
Although they lose 3-2 in Austria, Aleksandar Prijovic’s goal against Georgia three days later secures a ticket to Russia.
Serbia World Cup Group
Serbia World Cup Friendlies
- 23rd March – Morocco (lost 2-1)
- 27th March – Nigeria (won 2-0)
- 4th June – Chile (lost 1-0)
- 9th June – Bolivia (won 5-1)
Serbia World Cup Fixtures
Mladen Krstajic, age 43 (04.03.74)
Appointed caretaker following Slavoljub Muslin’s dismissal, the former centre-back has no experience as a head coach. However, with the Serbian FA’s first-choice replacement Dragan Stojkovic out of bounds due to his lucrative long-term contract with Chinese side Guangzhou R&F, he might just get the job full time.
Although his form dropped in the second part of the campaign, Dusan Tadic made a big contribution. Aleksandar Mitrovic is only a reserve at his club side Newcastle, but in the World Cup qualifiers he scored six times, including two crucial equalisers in the two draws with Wales.
The ability of goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic was vital in qualifying, while skipper Branislav Ivanovic showed true leadership despite some ups and downs in his performances. Nemanja Matic is the central figure in midfield.
Muslin constantly ignored midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, claiming he didn’t fit into a 3-4-3 system.
A member of the teams that won the 2013 Euro Under-19 and 2015 World Under-20 titles, midfielder Mijat Gacinovic scored on his senior debut in the 3-1 win away to Georgia.
Serbia World Cup Squad
Final 23-man squad –
GOALKEEPERS: Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar).
DEFENDERS: Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma), Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit St. Petersburg), Dusko Tosic (Guangzhou R&F), Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade), Uros Spajic (Krasnodar), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina).
MIDFIELDERS: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Marko Grujic (Liverpool), Adem Ljajic (Torino), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Filip Kostic (Hamburg SV), Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica), Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade).
FORWARDS: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK Salonika), Luka Jovic (Benfica).
Serbia World Cup Injuries
We will update you with injuries here.
The Unanswered Questions
Who will score the goals if Aleksandar Mitrovic is injured, suspended or out of shape?
If he stays with Newcastle, where he is consigned to the bench, it’s a question of whether the centre-forward will be ready for Russia. Aleksandar Prijovic scored the winning goal against Georgia but he is still a newcomer in this team, while Andrija Pavlovic would probably be punching above his weight.
Can the defence become more solid?
Ignoring the games against an inferior Moldova side, Serbia conceded 10 goals in eight games – almost all of which came after defensive errors.
Is there a plan B?
Far too often Serbia seem over reliant on Dusan Tadic and they can look clueless when opponents manage to shackle him. Caretaker coach Mladen Krstajic has given creative players Adem Ljajic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic their chance and their inclusion could resolve this problem.
Can Serbia overcome the mental blocks of their teams in the past?
The fear is that the big stage will prove too much for Serbia once again next summer. If they want to enjoy a good World Cup they must avoid freezing when it matters most.
At World Soccer we will update you with all the news related to the World Cup on our website. Make sure you know about the Qualified Teams, Groups, Friendlies, Dates, Fixtures, Stadiums and TV Schedule by clicking on the highlighted links.
Don’t forget to follow World Soccer on Facebook, and Twitter.