Pedigree Serbia secured a place in Qatar in the most dramatic fashion imaginable — Aleksandar Mitrovic’s last-minute header condemning Portugal to defeat in Lisbon — but the emphasis on Portugal’s failure disguised what was an impressive qualifying campaign. Beating out Portugal, after all, is no mean feat.
The Star Midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been one of the best players in Italy for five years, if not longer. The president of his team, Lazio, values him at $150 million and claims he is better than Paul Pogba. At 27, it is about time he lived up to that billing on a global stage.
Key Question Serbia should, on paper, be a threat. Its team is drawn largely from Europe’s major leagues; Milinkovic-Savic is a reliable, creative presence; Dusan Vlahovic, Luka Jovic and Mitrovic provide an embarrassment of riches in attack. And yet that is the same before every tournament, and Serbia never quite manages to deliver on its promise. The question is: Why?