Wednesday 19 December 2018

Rampant Serbians ready to roll on to Russia

Serbia’s Dusan Tadic. Photo: REUTERS
Serbia’s Dusan Tadic. Photo: REUTERS

Serbia's coach Slavoljub Muslin didn't join his squad on the flight home to Belgrade from Georgia after Friday's World Cup tie there, instead stopping off in Russia to see friends in Moscow for a few days.

The hope in Serbia is that Muslin and his squad get to spent a lot of time in Russia next year, their World Cup bid very much on course as they ousted Ireland as the table-toppers in Group D thanks to their 3-1 win in Tbilisi.

While everyone associated with the Irish squad, a camp covered by a black cloud this week due to Seamus Coleman's heartbreaking injury, could do without this week's friendly with Iceland, a revived Serbia's only regret is that they have to wait until June, and a game at home to Wales, for their next outing in the campaign.

Dusan Tadic, who had his nose broken by Neil Taylor earlier in the group, was not surprised to see what happened in Dublin. "Wales play rough," said Southampton man Tadic.

"They won't have Taylor and Bale when we play them in June, I would prefer to play them at full strength so we can show that we are better. We have a huge game now in June and we have to get ready for it."

Yet Friday's win was a nervy one for Serbia as they had to come from 1-0 down, and Chelsea star Nemanja Matic admitted that the first half was "torture" but the result was what mattered.

"That win last week could prove to be the most important result on the road to Russia," said Matic.

"We didn't play well and had to wake ourselves up, our coach was not happy with us at half time. We were poor, we were badly organised, we didn't defend well and gave Georgia the opportunity for their goal.

"Now we get ready for Wales, hopefully we will have a big support as we need the fans. The next game is important and if we can win at home to Wales, I think we will be very close to Russia," added Matic.

Support could play a role for Serbia in that tie. They had a very disappointing attendance of 8,000 for the first home game of the campaign, that 2-2 draw with Ireland in a rain-sodden Belgrade back in September but the gate had doubled to 14,000 for their next one, at home to Austria a month later, and while the home fans struggled to make any noise in the Ireland game, the Red Star Stadium could have a near full house for when Wales - minus Bale and Taylor - head there.

Tadic added: "I don't know how many points we will need to get to Russia but if we can win against Wales, we will be in a very strong position."

After that home game with Wales in June, Serbia host Moldova before the key date away to Ireland in Dublin on September 5th.

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