Posted on May 23, 2006
This team, which formerly played as Yugoslavia in international soccer, turned out to be one of the surprises of World Cup qualifying. In a group that included Spain and Belgium they managed to go undefeated, winning six of their 10 games and drawing the other four.
The key to success for the team has been a defense that gave up only one goal during qualifying -an amazing statistic. Goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric (Ankaraspor) has been outstanding as have team captain Mladen Krstajic (Schalke 04) and Ivica Dragutinovic (Sevilla) on the back line. Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) is extremely promising defender. The 24-year-old moved to the English Premier League from Spartak Moscow in January and has already seen playing time.
The midfield and the forwards have not been as consistently solid but there will be very capable players holding down those positions. Look for Mateja Kezman (Atletico Madrid) and veteran striker Savo Milosevic (Osasuna) to lead the attack. Experienced Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan) will definitely be an asset on the left side of the midfield. Sasa Ilic (Galatasaray) and Zvonimir Vukic (Portsmouth) are also able playmakers.
Serbia and Montenegro will face a tough challenge in World Cup group play. After giving up only one goal in qualifying, their defense should be up to the challenge but the question will be whether or not they can score goals. If they can, and the scores are low, anything is possible.