Northern Ireland - Serbia

Northern Ireland will miss another big competition. And while in previous campaign as underdogs were very close, this qualifiers entered with bigger ambitions but reached only fourth place in group. They gain English style of play characterized with fighting spirit, national coach has a decent squad, but simply lack in quality when they face some of the best European teams (if we can say so for Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic or Poland). Two best players are young Man.Utd. star Jonny Evans and Sunderland’s striker David Healy. Healy didn’t repeat the performances from campaign for EURO when he was the best European goal scorer and probably because the lack of first team play at Stadium of Light scored only one goal in ten group games. Small amount of goals also was the main reason for recent national team failure as they didn’t score in two last and decisive games (Slovakia 0-2 at home and Czech Republic 0-0 away). However, coach Nigel Worthington has called the best available players. Only missings will be Coventry midfielder Sammy Clingan and striker from Burnley Martin Paterson. Northern Ireland never lack in motivation and I expect their decent display.


Serbia passed very strong group consisted of France, Romania, Austria, Lithuania and Faroe Islands. With seven wins and 22 points on the balance, booked the ticket for the final countdown in South Africa and left France short handed. New national team coach, Radomir Antic has brought collective play and fighting spirit that were never characteristics of Serbia’s games. With excellent tactical leadership and squad based on Vidic and Ivanovic in defense line, Stankovic, Krasic and Jovanovic in midfield and Zigic and Pantelic in attack, team surprised announced group favorites France, Romania and whole European audience reaching the first place in group. Second of two defeats (first was in Paris 1-2), Serbia faced in last round in Lithuania 1-2. Cold weather and freezing rain in Vilnius, extremely bad pitch and two penalty kicks for the opponent were the main reasons for defeat that took off the celebration smiles. So, Serbs traveled to Belfast with intention to return a good mood. Antic can not count on key midfielder Dejan Stankovic, regular striker Marko Pantelic and defender from the bench Ivica Dragutinovic. He’ll mix the cards and try some tactical solutions, but anyway team that will start the game at Windsor Park will be more than competitive.


Northern Ireland have a decent squad, but will face the stronger opponent than they used to play against. Although they’ll play at home and will have fans’ support, clear advantage is on visitors’ side. Serbia  will be very serious, friendly games are important for self confidence and I expect their attacking attitude and win. Probably without a goal conceded. Best odd is at Betfair, 2.35. Away win.


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