After confidently beating Costa Rica in their opening fixture of the 2018 World Cup, Serbia were regarded as a national team that could be seen as one of the dark horses of the competition, that could go on to at least reaching the Round of 16. This was stated for the likes of Croatia and Mexico, who have also been impressive and exciting to watch during their group matches in recent weeks.
On Friday evening, Mladen Krstajic’s men had to make sure they would either pick up a draw or a win against Switzerland. This would have allowed them to stay in the driving seat of Group E, no matter what the result would have been in the other group fixture between Brazil and Costa Rica.
However, Serbia’s moments in dreamland were intercepted and crushed as they were brought back down to reality as Switzerland’s never-say-die attitude and mentality allowed them to pull-off a second half comeback with goals from Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri. The result now leaves Switzerland in second place on four points whilst Serbia are behind them by just a single point.
The Serbia players as well as the manager himself will feel that his side were hard done by, given that German referee Felix Brych completely missed out on two blatant penalties in each half of the game. On top of that, a lot of aggressive and forceful fouls produced by Switzerland’s defence and midfield were gone without any recognition or punishment after the free-kick was officially given.
The likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luka Milivojevic and Nemanja Matic were booked in the final ten minutes of the first half, whilst individuals such as Xhaka and Fabian Schar got away with a number of fouls. Most importantly, Mladen Krstajic made his voice heard after the game came to an end, where he mentioned that the referee should be put on trial and punished for his mistakes.
On the other hand, the referee should not be blamed for everything and VAR should have stepped up for when it was needed the most. Football fans either feel that the system interrupts the momentum of the game or it helps the match to be treated fairly, but the consistency of this method has not been convincing enough and the people who actually watch the replays of the game do not get the chance to communicate with the referee.
Overall, Serbia’s style of play and tactics as a whole have not been versatile at all as their direct and short passing approach has been proven to be easy to come up against. For sure, the side’s target man in Aleksandar Mitrovic was giving Switzerland’s defence a lot of tough moments, but he did not receive many clear-cut chances and nor did he go on to produce any chances for his team-mates.
Up next, the team will go on to face one of the favourites to win the competition, Brazil, who will be aiming to secure their position as the winners of Group E without any issues. There is only way that Serbia can get past the group stages, and that’s by beating the South American side as well as having a lot of faith that Costa Rica can hopefully prevent Switzerland from taking the three points off them.
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