Mijatovic at the vanguard as Serbia chase milestone success
Milica Mijatovic shone for W-League glamour side Melbourne City
Mijatovic hoping to help Serbia to breakthrough EURO qualification
“Serbia have always had good quality players”
A curious name featured when all-star W-League queens Melbourne City unveiled their squad for the most recent season. The record-four-time champions have typically enlisted some serious star power among their international recruits; think the likes of FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner Yukari Kinga, universally-admired Scottish star Kim Little or metronomic Wales captain Jess Fishlock.
Milica Mijatovic, however, most recently of Norwegian outfit Arna-Bjornar, seemed an outlier. But the Serbian attacker proved her quality almost immediately with the ambitious Australian side.
A catalogue of quality goals helped Melbourne City through an unbeaten campaign. Notably too, the Belgrade-raised Mijatovic didn’t look out of place alongside vastly experienced internationals for whom technique is paramount, including Kinga and Australian stars such as Emily van Egmond and Steph Catley.
Indeed, Mijatovic’s technique and football nous shone through. Hailing from a part of the world where quality on the ball is seemingly second nature, perhaps that shouldn’t surprise. Mijatovic’s success alongside high-quality team-mates suggests Serbia have the raw tools to be a force in women’s football.
It is a view that ‘Millie’, as she is universally known, fully concurs with. “We lacked fitness and competitiveness (when I joined the national team), but now we have these attributes due to players playing abroad, and that makes a huge difference,” Mijatovic told FIFA.com. “We have always had good quality players.”
Mijatovic’s technical prowess is also evident in her extraordinary versatility. Used in Melbourne City’s front three, Mijatovic originally featured for Serbia in her preferred attacking midfield role, but has more recently featured as a holding midfielder or striker.
Now Mijatovic is hoping that optimism can translate to milestone success at international level. Serbia are still in a position to qualify for their first major international tournament. An away win over Group G rivals Austria is the tough, but not insurmountable hurdle that must be cleared if the White Eagles are to stay in the hunt for UEFA Women’s EURO qualification.
“I think we are in a good way at national team level compared to previous years,” Mijatovic said. “At the moment we have a relatively young, but good team. Almost 80 per cent of our squad are playing at good clubs, or in good leagues.
“Women’s football in Serbia is definitely developing, although it is still far behind the big nations. We are getting more support from our federation, but I think structure-wise there is some work to be done.
“(Things are) very different, firstly with the support we are receiving, and then also our competitiveness and quality is much, much better.”
Mijatovic’s move Down Under was the latest stop in a colourful career that has also included stints abroad in France, Sweden, Norway and Kazakhstan. She returned from the mid-March EURO qualifier – a thumping 8-1 win over North Macedonia – just in time to help City to victory in the championship decider.
But it was a commitment that came with a degree of cost. On the same weekend that City held aloft the W-League trophy, border shut-downs meant Mijatovic has since remained stranded in Melbourne.
Mijatovic, though, is still training under modified conditions at a club she has grown to love. Despite some 30 nationalities featuring in the W-League's decade-long history, Mijatovic is the first from the entire eastern half of Europe.
“The professionalism at the club is at the highest level, with a really good team and club culture,” said the 28-year-old. “It has been a really good chance for me to show everyone what ambitions I have.
“I have really improved my goalscoring and finishing, and playing an offensive game. I want to play in one of the top leagues in Europe or in USA, and I think I have the ability to do that.”