Serbia to go for the jugular with qualification on horizon

KALININGRAD • Aleksandar Kolarov insists that Serbia will not take it easy as they look to qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup when they take on Switzerland today.

A topsy-turvy Group E could be thrown into further disorder when both sides clash in a contest that could put one team on the brink of advancing to the knockout round.

A group that was supposed to see mighty Brazil at the top instead has Serbia, the lowest-ranked team in the pack, looking down at everyone after a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their opener, while the South American giants and Switzerland battled to a 1-1 draw.

Victory over the Swiss in Kaliningrad today would guarantee Serbia a place in the last 16, regardless of whether they win or lose their final group game with Brazil next week.

"It's very important that we have these three points in the bag, but it's not over, Switzerland will be the hardest match," said captain Kolarov, who scored from a superb free kick against Costa Rica.

"I don't want to do the maths for now, if we draw, it would not work, we want to win of course."

At No. 6 in the Fifa world rankings, it is hard to call the industrious Swiss a surprise package, but the stalemate with the five-time world champions still registered as a shock which shook up the group and indeed the World Cup.

Switzerland are not seen as contenders for the trophy but the Alpine nation are unbeaten in their last six matches, including draws with two of the heavy favourites - Brazil and Spain.

"I hope that people will take notice of us and take us seriously," said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.

"Sometimes, there's a lack of recognition and that's a pity because we played very well."

The Swiss, as usual, are well organised and physical but will not intimidate the Serbs, who showed against Costa Rica that they also embrace the tough going.

Despite their attacking reputation, Serbia and Switzerland scored just once - from set pieces - in the opening matches.

"With respect to Switzerland, we have analysed all three opponents," said Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, after his first competitive game in charge.

"We know everything about Switzerland, now we are going to watch for some details (from) when they played Brazil to make sure we have not missed any details."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Serbia to go for the jugular with qualification on horizon'. Print Edition | Subscribe