For its third participation in a final phase of the World Cup in its own name after 2010 and 2018, Serbia hopes to finally cross the first round. Four years ago, despite an initial victory against Costa Rica (1-0)she finished 3rd in her group, after two setbacks against Switzerland (1-2) and Brazil (0-2), two opponents that facetious fate has again reserved for her this year.
To reach the round of 16, Serbia is pinning a lot of hope on its attacking duo, Aleksandar Mitrovic – Dusan Vlahovic. Top scorer of a selection born in 2006 (50 goals in 76 matches), Mitrovic was honored on Monday by Smederevo (south-east of Belgrade), the city where he was born twenty-eight years ago. Represented by his younger brother Milan, he was awarded the Key to the City, with Mayor Jovan Bec urging him “to unlock the locks of the defenses of all our opponents during the World Cup”.
Mitrovic without a match for a month, Vlahovic played again on Friday
The Serbs especially hope that their serial scorer can hold his place. Because, if they flew to Qatar, the Orlovi (“the Eagles”) owe it in large part to Mitrovic, author of eight goals in eight matches during the qualifications, including that of deliverance in Portugal (2-1) at the last minute of the final day, sending the selection of Cristiano Ronaldo to the play-offs.
But, in the same way as Karim Benzema’s muscular glitches chanted the preparation of the French team until the Ballon d’Or package announced last Saturdaythe Serbian team is hanging on to the evolution of the injury that “Mitro” has been dragging on his right ankle for long weeks.
Touched against Sweden (4-1) on September 24 in the League of Nations, the Fulham striker, author of 43 goals in 44 Championship matches (English D2) last year and 9 goals in 12 Premier League matches this season, relapsed in October and has not played a single game for almost a month and a draw against Everton (0-0), October 29 . “The good news is that he doesn’t feel any pain where he was injured”, said Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic at a press conference on Wednesday, without further details. But Mitrovic having only resumed collective training on Monday, it is likely that he will start on the bench this Wednesday evening in Lusail, so as not to compromise the rest of his tournament.
On the other hand, although he also lacks competition, Dusan Vlahovic should be established. Away from the field because of a pubalgia contracted in the Champions League against Benfica (3-4) on October 25, the 22-year-old striker had missed the last five meetings of Juventus Turin. Entering the break against Bahrain (5-1) in the last warm-up match last Friday, he delivered a reassuring period, scoring a goal and providing two assists.