Kill me but I'm starting this thread now. There's not much to reflect about the world cup. We came into the World Cup with one of the youngest rosters of the tournament and the most U23 players. This tournament was more about integrating those players into the A-team rather than achieving something big. The U20 WC Golden Generation is coming and it's time to talk about their next qualification and what the best moves are to finally achieve success at the A-team football level, which we have failed to do since the split-up of Yugoslavia.
Let's start off with the players that we are saying goodbye to.
1. The Chelsea legend himself, Branislav Ivanovic
. Rock solid defender through many of our campaigns. Choke artist on the big stage. Can't blame him too much here though. He is old and did his best. Always fought for Serbia and our pride. One of the few players along with Kolarov that always left everything on the pitch. In some alternate universe, Bane is the world's best striker and top goalscorer. You will be missed and remembered, Bane.
2. Time to say goodbye to the self-proclaimed, "world's best goalkeeper," Vladimir Stojkovic
. For all the hate he gets and how limited he is, that Penalty save against Germany will be remembered till the end of time. He's saved shots from stars like C. Ronaldo and Neymar in his time for Serbia. He saved our a$$es many times. I have nothing but respect for him. Saying all this, there was two major things wrong with Stojkovic,
A: His nervousness disrupted the rest of our team. You want your most confident player to be your goalkeeper. Watching Stojkovic pre-games makes me nervous so I can only imagine what effect it has on the rest of the team.
B: It ties into part A but he's just a very unsure keeper and lacks confidence to commit to his initial move. After seeing the replay on Brazil's first goal, it was comical. Stojkovic came out and then decided last second to abort and went for it again only to get chipped over his head. That's something you'd expect from an 18 year old keeper, not 34. He has the same issues with set pieces and crosses. It's something he never learned. Otherwise, he could have been a top keeper. He shot stopping and 1 on 1 situations are world class. I don't care what anyone says, if we had gone to the knockout stage, I would have been confident playing for penalties with him in goal. It wasn't meant to be.
It's time to move on Stojke, thank you for all you have done.
3. Antonio Rukavina
, goodbye my friend. I can't believe you've been able to make the roster year after year despite being an inferior player, but you always played with your heart and somehow always outperformed the person who was ahead of you. Hopefully, this is the last time we see you
4. Dusko Tosic
, it's time for you to go back to your Karleusa and off to China you go. Your passion and Vidic-lite diving headers in defense will be missed but your 1 massive mistake per game will not. Enjoy your summer and retirement from the NT.
Say it ain't so. Please, say it ain't so. We are not ready for you to leave, dear Kolarov
Age is catching up to our dear LB. While he arguably had his best year in club football, it seems like he is preparing for retirement. Personally, I think he has one more tournament in him. Depending on the formation we play with going forward, we might still be able to use him for one more EURO qualifier. Let's wait and see what he decides to do. At the moment, we have no direct replacement for him and it might be our biggest hole along with the RB position and obviously head coach.
Speaking of head coach, good riddance to you Mladen Krstajic
. Your poor tactics, horrendous lineups, and substitutions will definitely not be missed.
I want to mention one other player that I think might retire from the NT. The Red Devil's very own, Nemanja Matic
. As the most established player in our WC squad, he will most likely take most of the blame apart from Krstajic. Rightfully so, he had a bad tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls a Vidic and retires early from the NT. Of all our players, he lives the most expensive lifestyle and it seems like he will need to play for one more contract. So, his goals are more club oriented. I wouldn't be so sad to see him go, to be honest. His passing in midfield ruins the flow to our game. If that is going to be his decision, so long bud. We have replacements.
Apart from maybe Kolarov and Matic, everyone else is certainly gone from the NT.
So, now we move forward. What's interesting is that pretty much all the players that will be retiring are defensive players. The positive: we are already seeing some young guys stepping it up. First guy that springs to mind is Nikola Milenkovic. Barring any injuries, this kid can go on to become the best CB in the world. IMO, he is already nearing world class territory and if he earns himself a transfer to A. Madrid, I have no doubt he will achieve it soon. Veljkovic looked very comfortable in defense, but a healthy Nastasic will most likely be the first choice pairing next to Milenkovic. Our golden generation of CB's is coming from the 99-2002 generations. Some immensly talented central defenders coming through the ranks. We already see Markovic at Partizan following in the footsteps of Milenkovic and Nastasic while Zvezda has Erakovic is following his own path.
B let's begin with the most importance piece to any football team,
With Krstajic inevitably leaving after failing to leave the group and using some suspect lineups/tactics, we need to talk about who will replace him. I think it's pretty obvious who everyone wants and that is none other than Veljko Paunovic
, our head coach that took Serbia to glory by beating Brazil at the U20 WC in New Zealand. He's coaching for Chicago right now, but you'd have to think he wouldn't miss out on coaching his very own golden generation. I can see why he didn't take the job after Muslin was fired. It was a difficult position as you only had a few months of preparation and there is a mix of 3 different generations from 20-23, 24-28, 29-34. That's very hard to do integrate a uniform system with an inconsistent roster. I think he was waiting for after the WC. We shall see.
Apart from the obvious Paunovic. Drulovic won U19 Euros with Rajkovic, Veljkovic, SMS, Maksimovic, Gacinovic, and Mitrovic. He knows this team just as well as Paunovic.
Less likely coaches are Jokanovic
who is finally establishing his career in the EPL. He might be a future coach down the road but he's probably concentrated on his club career at the moment.
is a great option in my personal opinion as many people like Wenger highly rate him. Though, he stated he signed a contract a contract in China (4 years?) and is going to see it out.
Another coach I highly rate is Vladan Milojevic
. What he did at Zvezda is just unbelievable. How he organized that team, how he got them playing collectively with motivation and proper fitness, and developed some of our younger players like Ilic, Joveljic, Radonjic, and Adzic. I really love him. He's a genius and has a bright future ahead of him. He motivates his players properly he's just a brilliant tactician. Miles ahead of someone Krstajic. It does seem like he's committed to Zvezda which is fine.
Apart from these main guys I do see one other guy sneaking in and taking the job...Zeljko Buvac
. Jurgen Klopp gave him the nickname, "the brain", because he's responsible for all the brilliant plays that led Liverpool to the CL final before finally having an indifference with Jurgen. It's been 20 years of coaching football and he's never taken a head coaching position. What perfect way than to do it with Serbia. If he can get us playing like today's Liverpool or Borussia Dortmund when he was there with Klopp, we'd be in great hands for many years. A tactician of his level would really progress this team.
First two for obvious reasons of familiarity with the players from our golden generation. Chemistry is the most important.
Anyone outside of these 6 guys is most likely a disappointment. Anyone that's not a Serbian and familiar with our young guys should not be welcome. It's a recipe for disaster knowing our menality and makeup of a young team.
Now that we have the head coaching position taken care of, let's move on to the,
One thing I'm glad FSS and Krstajic did was integrate the young guys into this WC squad and give them some experience. These kids did brilliantly well. We are really underrating how well they performed at their age. Our CB's against Brazil are 20 and 22 years old. That's unheard of for a European side. Usually there's always at least 1 experienced CB. Krstajic made the job easy for the next coach in terms of integrating youth which is usually very difficult for coaches as there's a lot fo risk involved. Krstajic is a man that gives zero f*cks and took that chance. All of Serbia will shame his name for the next month but hopefully one day we will be able to praise him after successful tournaments in the near future.
Here is my pool of players that I would experiment with in the upcoming friendlies before the next qualifying campaign:
Tier 1 (Absolute Must)
Kolarov (C) ***
Matic (VC) ***
***: If they don't retire
Tier 2 (Should be considered)
Tier 3 (Youth experiments)
My 25 player short-list:
This is assuming guys like Matic, Kolarov and Tadic don't retire. Though, anything is possible. Matic just came out and said he's not sure he will ever play again. Not a surprise. To be honest, his archaic style of football is not wanted. Maybe if he was a pure DM and just stuck to short passes, sure. Milivojevic does that role just as well. We need more mobile and fast acting midfielders like S. Lukic, Gacinovic, Nemanja Maksimovic and even Ljajic or Zivkovic can play there.
The players I highlighted above are potential starters. Depends on the coach and the formation we use (3-4-3?). Also, how the season progresses but league of nations begins in September. I'm not quite sure yet how the formatting works so someone else can provide that info but the Euro qualifiers draw is at the end of the year and the qualifiers actually begin March of next year. So, there's plenty of time to see who will prove themselves with their club football showings.
It's a new generation. A time for these youngsters to step up and take our football to the next level. One proper ref away from a knockout phase finish is very successful considering all the circumstances.
Overall, I am excited for the upcoming qualifiers. I feel like these guys will have a certain level of confidence after U19 champs, U20 champs, and now WC experience in Russia. We also have a very good chance to make the U21 final tournament and then the Olympics. It's looking up for Serbia. It's a lot different this time than before. We finally have collective talent. We are just missing the 3 things I mentioned before: Quality Coach, RB security and LB security.