Mladen Krstajic has discussed the honour of handling the Serbia reins at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and outlined why they can upset the apple cart in Group E. The 44-year-old, despite having no experience as a head coach, succeeded Slavoljub Muslin in the hot-seat in October.
“It’s already a privilege to be a fan in the stands, supporting your country in an important match,” Krstajic told Globo. “Imagine being the man who leads the team in a huge tournament like the World Cup. It’s without doubt a big duty and responsibility, but also an honour to be able to showcase your county in the best possible way.
“As for the pressure, I think it’s completely normal for it to exist. I have no fear. I have great colleagues among the coaching staff. The knowledge I have and the things I lack are well complemented by my backroom staff.”
Serbia are beneath their three first-round opponents – Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica – on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. That, however, doesn’t dissuade Krstajic from believing they can make the knockout phase.
“Before the qualifiers, Austria were the favourites in our group, along with Ireland and Wales,” said the former defender, who represented Serbia and Montenegro at Germany 2006. “We were there as the fourth team that the others weren’t too concerned about, but with good vibes and the friendship that was with us during the qualifiers, we finished in first place and qualified for the World Cup. That is why I think that these players have as much quality as they do character to have a great tournament.
“We certainly don’t have easy opponents. When you look at Costa Rica being 25th on the FIFA Ranking, Switzerland being sixth, Brazil being second and Serbia being 35th, that indicates what we’re up against. However, on the other hand, we’re certainly not going to dismiss our chances in the group.
“Costa Rica are, by the FIFA Ranking, the weakest team we will face. We start out against Costa Rica. We will be fully focused on Switzerland and Brazil too, but the first match is always the most important.”
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