World Cup 2006 Preview – Serbia & Montenegro
Outright Odds: 100/1
Group C Winners: 9/1
Serbia & Montenegro will start in Germany as undefeated in qualifying with one of the meanest defences in international football. They topped their qualifying group ahead of Spain, Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina and conceded just one goal in 10 matches – away at Spain in a 1-1 draw.
The draw in Spain saw their defence breaches for the first time in eight matches, with the preceding seven successive clean sheets setting a new world record.
An almost watertight defence is the key to Serbia & Montenegro’s success, with the backline superbly marshalled by Mladen Krstajic, who plays in Germany for Schalke 04. Such organisation and the ability to “snuff out” any opposing attacks prompted Manchester United to shell out £7 million on defensive partner Nemanja Vidic who was at Spartak Moscow.
Neither player was a household name and neither were Dynamo Kiev’s Goran Gavrancic or Ivica Dragutinovic of Sevilla who made up the back four, or goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric, currently at Turkish outfit Ankaraspor, but they will be in the minds of their Group C opposition managers.
However, Serbia & Montenegro may be the side that causes a spanner in the works for the more fancies teams in the group, rather than one which enjoys success themselves. While they are resolute at the back, they suffer from a lack of creativity and do not score many goals.
They scored 16 goals in qualifying, although half of them came against San Marino across two matches. Goalless draws at home to Belgium, Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina suggest they won’t be threatening much in Germany. Former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman, with five goals in qualifying, is their most obvious threat.
However, Nikola Zigic, at 6 foot 7 inches also poses a towering presence and can cause problems in the opposition’s box. He also possesses great awareness and created Kezman’s winning goal in the final qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina which clinched their place in the finals.
Inter Milan midfielder Dejan Stankovic is one of the few recognisable faces in the Serbia & Montenegro side and at 27, is one of the oldest, as manager Ilija Petkovic has successfully put his faith in young talent to replaces the retired likes of legend Predrag Mijatovic. Petkovic is himself a former international who coached the old Yugoslavia for two months in 2001.
Serbia & Montenegro have based their recent, undefeated success on being solid at the back and a hard team to break down. This may see them claim a few “shock” draws but a lack of goals could see them miss out on a place in the second round. Back them to claim a draw against Argentina in their second match.
Argentina vs Serbia & Montenegro draw @ 5/2