Serbia

The past
Back in 1992, Yugoslavia had booked a spot at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Hong Kong, but due to the escalating civil strife at home and in response to a series of UN resolutions, the team was barred from taking part at the tournament. Since then, the Serbian national team has made steady and sure progress, qualifying four times for the UEFA Futsal EURO, including the last three editions of the continental tournament. The Serbs made the last eight in both 2010 and 2012, and also performed with great credit at the Grand Prix de Futsal in Brazil, finishing a worthy fifth.

The present
Beli Orlovi, the White Eagles, are set for their first FIFA Futsal World Cup finals after battling through qualifying and then overcoming Hungary in a play-off double-header. After reaching the quarter-finals at the EURO in early 2012, losing only narrowly to eventual runners-up Russia, coach Aca Kovacevic and his team will be keen for a repeat performance or better at Thailand 2012.

The future
Kovacevic has fashioned a squad featuring a promising blend of youth and experience, and including exceptional individuals such as striker Slobodan Rajcevic, who scored five goals in the five qualifying games and laid on another two goals for team-mates. Up-and-coming talent Marko Prsic, meanwhile, produced the performance of his life in the decisive second leg against the Hungarians, scoring a brace. At the back, the defence is expertly marshalled by Aleksandar Zivanovic, no mean goalscorer himself with three goals en route to Thailand. And at the EURO in Croatia, defender Vidan Bojovic won the Bronze Shoe with four goals.

Facts and figures
Key players
Slobodan Rajcevic, Aleksandar Zivanovic, Miodrag Aksentijevic, Bojan Pavicevic, Vidan Bojovic

Qualifying in numbers
Serbia earned the chance of a play-off against Hungary for a place in Thailand with qualifying wins over Slovenia (3-1) and Moldova (4-0), and a 4-4 thriller against Israel. The Serbs lost the away leg of the play-off 1-0 to the Magyars, but Kovacevic’s men stormed to a crushing 6-1 victory in front of their home fans, ultimately cruising into the FIFA Futsal World Cup finals.

The stat
3.4 Serbia managed an average of well over three goals per game in qualifying, the best single tally being the half-dozen in the home leg of the play-off against Hungary, a perfect response after their only blank in the first meeting.