5 things to know about Serbia’s team before Wednesday’s match against Ireland

Fintan O'Toole

Serbia will be watching on during the World Cup this summer rather than being one of the main players involved. They wound up third in their qualification group, thus missing out on a playoff place as they finished three points behind Croatia.

With Belgium clearly the strongest side in Group A – finishing on 26 points – the battle for the runner-up spot was between Serbia and Croatia. Ultimately a poor start put paid to Serbia’s aspirations as they only took four points from their first five games, including three successive defeats to Belgium, Macedonia and Croatia.

Serbia’s fortunes took an upswing in the second half of the campaign as they claimed ten points from the five games they played. But despite Croatia losing three of the last four games, Serbia had left themselves with too great a gap to bridge.

2. It’s been all square in Ireland and Serbia’s last two meetings

In the wake of the disappointment Euro 2012, Giovanni Trapattoni took his team to Belgrade for a friendly in August of that year against Serbia. The game finished 0-0 as Ireland finalised their preparations ahead of the start of the World Cup qualifiers.

Ireland’s team that night was:

Westwood, Kelly, O’Shea, O’Dea, McShane, Whelan (Green 60), McGeady (Coleman 78), McClean (Keogh 69), McCarthy, Walters (O’Brien 78), Cox.

And it was against Serbia back in May 2008, that Trapattoni first took charge of Ireland. They drew 1-1 that night at the Aviva Stadium with Marko Pantelic putting Serbia ahead in the 75th minute before Andy Keogh saved Ireland’s blushes with an injury-time strike.

Ireland’s team that night was:

Kiely, Kelly, Dunne, McShane, Delaney, Duff, Miller, Whelan, Hunt (Keogh 80), Keane (Murphy 69), Doyle (Long 86).

Aiden McGeady and Branislav Ivanovic

Aiden McGeady and Branislav Ivanovic in action in their 2012 friendly.

Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

3. The gaffer is Ljubinko Drulovic but he’s only a caretaker

With Sinisa Mihajlovic’s reign in charge of Serbia having come to an end last November after he took charge of Serie A side Sampdoria, Serbia have been on the lookout for a new boss.

Last month, former winger Ljubinko Drulovic was named acting coach for Wednesday night’s friendly against Martin O’Neill’s Ireland team. Drulovic won 38 international caps as a player and featured for Portuguese sides Benfica and Porto.

His managerial claim to fame is guiding the Serbian U19 side to the European Championships title last year. Serbia have plans to name a permanent coach in April or May.

4. Keep an eye out for the Premier League stars in their ranks

There will be a few familiar faces from the Premier League in Serbia’s ranks. Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has won 67 caps for his country while Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov, who was part of the Capital One Cup winning side on Sunday, has been capped 45 times.

Also named in the Serbian squad is Nemanja Matic, the 25 year-old who was signed by Chelsea for £21 million in January. Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic is currently out injured while also on the casualty list is Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic as he continues to recover from a cruciate ligament injury.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Fulham v Chelsea - Craven Cottage

Nemanja Matic in action for Chelsea last Saturday.

Source: EMPICS Sport

5. Serbia are in the only five-team qualifying group for Euro 2016

Portugal, Denmark, Armenia and Albania are the countries that Serbia will line up alongside in Group I of the qualifying for Euro 2016. With Portugal favorites to top the group, Denmark will be the side Serbia will be hoping to topple to take the second automatic spot.

In that regard, their home game against Denmark next November will be a pivotal tie. It will arrive after Serbia’s opening two games in the group – away to Armenia and home to Albania – that they will be aiming to take full points from.

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