By Laurence Kelson
Nickname: The White Eagles (Beli Orlovi)
World Cup appearances: 9 as Yugoslavia (1930-1988), 1 as Serbia and Montenegro (2006), 1 as Serbia (2010)
Best result: 4th in 1930 and 1962 (as Yugoslavia)
Coach: Mladen Krstajic
Captain: Aleksandar Kolarov
World Ranking: 35
Player to watch: Aleksandar Mitrovic
The 23-year-old striker will be Serbia’s main threat in front of goal. He’s been in fine form of late, scoring six goals in nine games in Serbia’s World Cup qualifiers. He is signed to English Premier League side Newcastle United but spent this season on loan to Fulham where his energetic and aggressive style of play ravaged defences in the Championship (England’s 2nd tier competition), scoring 12 goals in 20 appearances. He will have the benefit of playing in front of some of the tournament’s best midfielders in Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio). If Matic and co can get him the ball in the penalty box with room to shoot, he will be a threat to any defence.
— Fudbalski savez Srbije | FA Serbia (@FSSrbije) June 9, 2018
Mitrovic in action against Bolivia.
NowUC Predictor: Round-of-16
Serbia qualified for the World Cup after topping Group D in the European qualifiers. They beat out Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales, the Republic of Ireland, Austria, Georgia and Moldova, winning six, drawing three and losing just once. In Russia, the Serbs will be up against Costa Rica, Switzerland and Brazil in Group E. This team is stacked with young talent and contains a number of players that won the 2015 under 20’s World Cup. Coach Mladen Krstajic isn’t afraid of choosing younger more dynamic players over the old guard (one of the factors that lead to his appointment in late 2017) and this will put them in contention to take second place in Group E behind the heavily-backed Brazilians. A round-of-16 berth will most likely set up a match with reigning champions Germany and that’s where the flight of the White Eagles will end.