Serbia
© AFP

Qualification history
Serbia contested their first international match as an independent nation on 16 August 2006 in a 3-1 victory over Czech Republic. Prior to that, the country had played under the names of the former Yugoslavia and subsequently Serbia and Montenegro.

The White Eagles competed in their maiden FIFA World Cup™ qualification campaign under their current name en route to South Africa 2010. Drawn in a group alongside 1998 world champions France, as well as Austria, Lithuania, Romania and Faroe Islands, Serbia stole a surprise march on their rivals and qualified directly for the finals.

FIFA World Cup finals history
The former Yugoslavia were involved in nine FIFA World Cups between 1930 and 1998, finishing fourth at both Uruguay 1930 and Chile 1962. At the 2006 edition in Germany, Serbia and Montenegro lost all three of their group matches to bow out of the competition at the first hurdle.

Serbia suffered the same fate at South Africa 2010, where despite a surprise win against Germany they were again sent packing after first round defeats to Ghana and Australia.

The current crop
Like their predecessors, the present Serbia squad ranks among the most technically gifted teams in Europe. The majority of the side plays in the continent’s top leagues, mixing it with the stars of England, Italy and Germany on a weekly basis.

The key players
In defence, Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic provide strength and stability, while the globetrotting Marko Pantelic and the towering Nikola Zigic comprise a varied forward line.

Coach: Sinisa Mihajlovic
Best performances in a FIFA competition: Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rome 1960 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Chile 1987 (Winners), FIFA World Cup Uruguay 1930, Chile 1962 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Branko Zebec, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Dragan Stojkovic