Euro 2012 qualifying match preview: Serbia vs Northern Ireland
Two of the outsiders in Group C will try to improve their positioning on March 25th at Stadion Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade, Serbia as Northern Ireland pays a visit in a Euro 2012 qualifying match. Northern Ireland sits in fourth place in the group with a win and two draws for five points in three games, while the struggling Serbs have a win a draw and two losses and are in fifth sport with four points. Italy leads the group with 10 points followed by Slovenia with seven and Estonia with six. The Faroe Islands sit in last place with just one point.
This is a huge game for both clubs if they hope to finish in at least second place. Serbia has gone from one of the top teams in the world just a few years ago to one of the most mediocre now. A lot of this could have to do with constant crowd trouble at their games. They lost a match by default to Italy earlier in the qualifying schedule after their match was halted after just six minutes because of crowd violence.
This game will be played to an empty stadium as part of the team’s punishment and that could benefit the Northern Irish as they won’t have any hostile fans to put up with. In fact, 200 of their own fans will be able to watch the match and cheer on the visitors. It’s a shame really because the team has some talented players in Ivanovic, Kolarov, Krasic, Stankovic, Jovanovic, Pantelic, and Tosic.
Northern Ireland has struggled against teams from the former Yugoslavia though and have just one win in 10 games against teams from there along with seven losses and two draws. To make matters worse, the team has only scored goals in three of their last 12 games. The last time they score more than once during an international game was a couple of years ago when they beat Poland 3-2 in a 2010 World Cup qualifier. However, they’re unbeaten so far in this Euro 2012 qualifying tournament.
Serbia has hit the back of the net five times so far, so this looks like it’s going to be a battle of their offense against a tight Northern Irish defence. A win for Northern Ireland would be huge since they’ve also played one game less than all other teams in the group. A win here would vault them into second place. Serbia hasn’t won at home yet in their two home matches.
The last time these two countries met was back in 2009 when Serbia won 1-0 in Belfast with Danko Lazovic scoring the winner. Northern Ireland was embarrassed in their last match which was a 3-0 loss at home to Scotland in a friendly in February.
Midfielder and captain Dejan Stankovic will be a key for Serbia with midfielder Chris Brunt being depended on by Northern Ireland. Brunt has played well in England and has 35 caps to his name.
This is going to be a tough match to predict because it’s being played behind closed doors, other than the 200 away fans. This could have a huge effect psychologically on the players and if it benefits anybody it’ll be Northern Ireland. Look for this game to end in a 1-1 draw because of it.
Bookmaker Bodog has the odds of a Serbia win posted at 8/15 with a Northern Ireland win at 6/1. The odds of a draw are 14/5 and the odds of a 1-1 draw are 7/1.