Serbia isn’t the most popular team entering the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but, just as they did in the qualifiers, this team should soar into the knockout round.
Team: Beli Orlovi
Colors: Red and blue
Beli Orlovi (“The White Eagles”) stirred the pot during the qualifying round when they finished first against powerhouses France and Austria.
The Serbs will rely on a strong back wall and their ability to quickly counterattack against opponents. Winning the set piece battle will be key, because the Serbs match up in size and strength against anyone in Group D.
Second place will be a tough battle. Three of the four teams are similar in style and size. The Serbs are hoping that their qualification experience will give them a slight advantage—and a ticket to the next round.
Key Players: Nemanja Vidic, Milan Jovanovic and Dejan Stankovic
In ’09, Vidic was widely considered the best defender in the world. If he can stay healthy during the tournament, he’ll reclaim that title. When his game’s on, no striker can get past him. His skill at sniping down crosses is unmatched. Once in a while, his temper gets the best of him, and he commits silly fouls.
Jovanovic will seek to transfer his goal scoring abilities onto the big stage. Goal set ups will come via long crosses and passes inside the box by team captain Stankovic, who will try to control the midfield and prevent the D from allowing balls to cross the line.
Key Matchup: Serbia vs. Germany
These two powerful teams will butt heads from start to finish. Add a little Man-U/Chelsea rivalry between Vidic and Ballack, and this game is bound to get physical. But if the Serbs expect to advance out of the group, they’ll need to score some points.
Beli Orlovi will put up an interesting fight. Expect them to tie for second place but eventually lose in the goal differential column.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown