Serbian football has a long and rich history, especially when it its two most notable teams – Partizan and Red Star Belgrade – are taken onto consideration. A host of players who have grown in the ranks of those clubs played for and won accolades with Europe elite clubs. But that was mostly when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. After the republic collapsed, Serbia joined hands in the early 90’s with Montenegro as part of a confederation. But as of 2006, the national team wears the colors of and represents only Serbia, re-writing its history.
Serbia national team started operating together with Croatia and Slovenia after World War I as the Kingdom of the Serbs. A decade later, Serbia became a part of the Republic of Yugoslavia and played in the 1930 FIFA World Cup Uruguay, where it reached the 4th place. 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy was the last tournament in which Serbia played as part of Yugoslavia before the break-up of the federation. Over the years and tournaments, the team has never reached higher than the quarter finals.
After a suspension from international play due to the civil war in Yugoslavia, Serbia resumed play, this time as part of a confederation with Montenegro, under which it qualified for the 1994 and 2006 tournaments. Starting with the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and on, the Serbia national team represents the country of Serbia solely. Its first official game was a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic on August 2006.
Over the years, Serbia had some outstanding players, who played professional football internationally. Among them is Dragan Stojkovic (Red Star Belgrade and Olympique de Marseille) Dejan Savicevic (European Cup with Red star Belgrade, UEFA Champions League and three Serie A titles with AC Milan) Predrag Mijatovic (Partizan Belgrade, Spanish Footballer of the year and scorer of 28 goals for Valencia, La Liga and UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid) Vladimir Jogovic (UEFA Champions League winner with Red Star Belgrade, Coppa Italia title with U.C. Sampdoria, UEFA Champions League and Serie A titles with Juventus, S.S. Lazio and Atletico Madrid) and Sinisa Mihajlovic (Yoguslav and European Cup winner with Red Star Belgrade, Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup Winners Cup titles with Lazio and Serie A and Coppa Italia titles with Inter).
One of the most memorable wins – if not the most memorable win in Serbia’s football history - occurred in South Africa in 2010, When Serbia defeated Germany 1-0 in the group stage. It was a win that sent a whole country to the street with flag flying, songs and happy spirits. But reality came knocking fast, as Serbia couldn’t advance from the group stage into the knockout round.
The golden age of players who played mostly for the team of Yugoslavia came and went, and in between rose some players who had fantastic careers, but could not carry the national team to achievements. Two players stood up from that list: Nemanja Vidic (Red Star Belgrade), who has 5 Premier League and a UEFA Champions League titles with Manchester United, among others, and Dejan Stankovic (Red Star Belgrade), who holds 6 Serie A titles with Lazio and Inter, as well as a UEFA Champions League title with Inter.
Serbia’s biggest opponent is, of course, cross boarder neighbor Croatia. The countries’ hate for one another has nothing to do with football and everything to do with history, politics, religion, territory and the break-up of Yugoslavia. There is so much bad blood between the two, that matches are often violent on and of the pitch.
Stankovic is the all-time appearances leader with 103 international caps, but he is sure to be passed over by Zenit Saint Petersburg defender Branislav Ivanovic with 100 caps. The all-time goal scorer is Stejepan Bobek, who scored 38 goals in 63 caps.
The Serbia national team play its home games in 55,538 seat Rajko Mitix Stadium, home of Red Star Belgrade.
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