Vidic: We can do a Greece
Suspended for Serbia and Montenegro's first Group C match on 11 June against the Netherlands, central defender Nemanja Vidic believes that watching the game from the bench might prove the hardest 90 minutes of his career.
Despite his own absence, Vidic is confident about Serbia and Montenegro's chances and tells FIFAworldcup.com that the bigger names will underestimate Ilija Petkovic's men at their peril. The stylish Manchester United defender is convinced that the Plavi can not only match the semi-final run of neighbours Croatia at France 98, but win the world's biggest prize in a surprise akin to Greece's recent UEFA EURO 2004 shocker in Portugal.
View Nemanja Vidic's profile
FIFAworldcup.com: How hard is it to know that you will not be able to take the pitch with your team-mates on the 11th against the Netherlands?
Nemanja Vidic: I have some mixed feelings about the opening game. It will probably be one of the hardest matches of my career to have to watch from the touchline. All this time I have had to look back on the qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina and now I realise that maybe I made a mistake in collecting the second yellow card. Now I have some anxious feelings because I will miss the first game, but I have enough strength to overcome it and give my best in the rest of the games.
Seeing that you will miss this first game, will you double your efforts for the next two group matches against Argentina and Côte d'Ivoire?
I will try to give triple the effort in the next matches! But you should know that I prepare to the fullest for every match that I play. I play to win every time I step on the pitch and I deeply believe that when the time comes I will be able to pick up where I left off in the qualifiers.
When you received your second yellow card of the qualifying campaign in the final game with Bosnia-Herzegovina, did you realise immediately that it would mean you miss the first match in Germany?
No, at the moment I was not thinking about the consequences. I was only focused on holding the 1-0 lead that we had and gaining automatic qualification for the World Cup. But since then I have spent so much time thinking about missing the first match. I apologised to my team-mates, but I am sure they will be fine without me and I will make up for it in the next games.
You famously only conceded one goal in ten qualifying matches. Does it bother you when everyone talks of this Serbia and Montenegro team as just a defensive side?
Well, we have tremendous quality in defence but people must remember that we have strong attackers as well, like (Mateja) Kezman and (Savo) Milosevic. The way we look at defence is that it is the place where our attack begins. I deeply believe that during this World Cup we will show that we not only have a strong defence but also a good attack and I think we will score many goals to prove it.
In your group matches you will be familiar with opposition strikers like Didier Drogba (Côte d'Ivoire and Chelsea) Hernan Crespo (Argentina and Chelsea) from playing in the Premiership. Do you think this gives you an edge?
Yeah, I played against both of them in the Premiership and I know them much better than I did in the past, and better than some of my team-mates. They are both quality players and I have nothing but good things to say about them. But I definitely feel that with the experience I have against them I will use to my advantage.
How far can Serbia and Montenegro go at these finals? Do you think you can match the exploits of neighbours Croatia who reached the semi-finals at France 98?
I believe we are good enough to escape from this tough group, and after that I have a vision not of emulating Croatia in '98, but rather Greece in 2004 (on their run to the UEFA European Championship). No offence to the great achievements of the Croatians in France, but we want to win the tournament, not finish third.
Do you feel you have an advantage by not being one of the Group C favourites?
We are not considered by most people to be favourites in the group so we have everything to gain and nothing really to lose. I think this is a fine position to be in.
Do you feel you have become a better player since moving to Manchester United from Spartak Moscow last season?
Since coming to Manchester, I don't think I have changed too much. But my vision is to get better in the future and I will be a better player as the years pass at Manchester United. It's a big club with a great coach, great players, and, of course, the supporters are the best in the world.
This will be your, and Serbia and Montenegro's, first FIFA World Cup. Has the size of the occasion sunk in for you? The atmosphere here has been great and we are all feeling very good. Since I miss the first match I have some mixed feelings. For me the World Cup doesn't start until next Friday. But I will cheer on my mates and I am amazed to be here. I am very proud. We have had some trouble in our country recently and I am happy to play for my flag, my shirt and for my brothers and sisters back home. I hope only to make them proud.
What makes Serbia and Montenegro different from the great Yugoslavian teams of old?
In the past, in the old Yugoslavia teams, we had great individual players, some of the best in the world. Recently we have changed our outlook. We still have great players, but now we are a stronger team, a strong unit. For us now the collective is the most important thing. Now we have great individuals, a great collective unit and hopefully we will get great results here in Germany.