by Milos Kosic
Serbia can be a dark horse in South Africa. The White Eagles (the team’s nickname) cruised through the qualifications, winning their group with a game to spare and sending France to the play-off stage. As part of Yugoslavia, and later Serbia and Montenegro, they reached the World Cup finals ten times, but this will be their first appearance as an independent nation.
Photo from fOTOGLIF
The team plays in a 4-4-2 formation, relying on a strong defense and fast counter attacks. With Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) on the right, and Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) as a central defender, Serbia’s back line is almost impenetrable. Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic controls the midfield while wingers Milos Krasic (CSKA Moscow) and Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liege) are major threats to the opponent’s goal.
The White Eagles are the tallest team in the tournament and they are very powerful in the air. Out of twenty-two goals they scored in the qualifying campaign, eight were from corner kicks. Both Ivanovic and Vidic have great heading abilities, while 6 ft 8 Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic can cause trouble to any defense.
The weakest part of the team is the goalkeeper, Vladimir Stojkovic. Currently on loan for Wigan, he played only four games for the club in the 2009/10 Premier League. His blunder against France last September, when he dropped the ball in front of Henry, cost the White Eagles two qualifying points (the final score was 1-1). Making a similar mistake in the World Cup may end up being fatal for the team.
The White Eagles arrive to South Africa eager to show that they are not just strong individuals who cannot function as a group. Four years ago, in Germany, they performed below expectations, losing all three group stage games and suffering a humiliating 6-0 defeat against Argentina. Serbia will have an opportunity to prove that they have matured as a team on Sunday, Jun 13, when they take on Ghana, before facing Germany on Jun 19th and Australia on Jun 23rd.