HomeEuro 2024EURO 2024 Preview: Could Serbia's Experience Bring them European Success?

EURO 2024 Preview: Could Serbia’s Experience Bring them European Success?

Serbia at EURO 2024: Navigating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

In the realm of international football, Serbia emerges at EURO 2024 with a mix of tempered expectations and undeniable skill. While domestic faith in their prospects remains guarded, the nation’s squad boasts a repertoire of talents capable of disrupting even the most established teams. Dragan Stojkovic, the man at the helm, carries the weight of national scepticism and a turbulent tenure marked by tactical missteps and underwhelming performances. Despite leading Serbia to consecutive tournaments, his popularity has waned, exacerbated by recent controversies over his management style and financial dealings.

Stojkovic’s leadership continues to be a polarising topic, especially after failing to secure a win at the previous World Cup and showing inconsistencies in the European qualifiers. His confrontational response to criticism and self-assessment of being underpaid has not endeared him to fans or media, setting a complex backdrop for the team’s campaign in Germany.

Spotlight on Lazar Samardzic: Serbia’s Rising Star

Among Serbia’s array of stars, Lazar Samardzic of Udinese stands out as a beacon of future promise. At just 22, Samardzic is viewed as the heir apparent to Dusan Tadic, mirroring his predecessor’s finesse and tactical intelligence on the field. Although his youth might limit his immediate impact, his development and adaptability will be crucial as Serbia navigates a group filled with defensively vulnerable teams, including England.

Photo: IMAGO

Strengths: Set-Pieces and Physicality

Serbia’s strategic advantages lie in their height and set-piece proficiency. As the tallest team in their last two major tournaments, their aerial dominance is a significant asset. The likes of Tadic and Filip Kostic provide lethal delivery from dead-ball situations, posing a constant threat to their opponents. Additionally, the squad’s core, featuring seasoned players like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, brings a blend of experience and cohesion that could catalyse their group stage performances.

Key Challenges: Tactical Rigidity and Defensive Gaps

However, Serbia faces glaring challenges, particularly in their defensive setup. The decision to employ a back three, despite a shortage of players fitting the wide centre-back mould, has disrupted their tactical balance, making them susceptible to fast breaks and exposing their defenders in one-on-one situations. Furthermore, the lack of a dynamic forward capable of stretching opposition defences limits their attacking versatility, potentially stifling their ability to capitalise on their offensive talents.

Managing Expectations and Potential Surprises

The prevailing sentiment among Serbian supporters and commentators is cautious. Journalist Kristijan Plazonja sums it up: “Serbs are generally quite optimistic when it comes to tournament football. Even when there is no real reason for it — some teams lacked certain qualities, we don’t have much of a tournament pedigree, etc — but this time around, expectations are really low.” This mindset might be a blessing in disguise, allowing Serbia to play without the burden of expectation, thus potentially facilitating a surprise success in the face of adversity.

As Serbia gears up for a challenging group stage at EURO 2024, the blend of seasoned leaders and emerging talents provides a glimmer of hope. While tactical and defensive issues loom large, their ability to upset more fancied teams should not be underestimated. Whether they can transcend their limitations and unite under Stojkovic’s controversial leadership will be a defining narrative of their campaign.

In conclusion, while Serbia may not enter EURO 2024 as favourites, their matches promise a mix of passion, unpredictability, and potential surprises, appealing to neutrals and aficionados alike. As always, the drama of international football is set to unfold with every match Serbia plays, ensuring their journey, regardless of its outcome, will be anything but dull.

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