Serbia World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

Serbia World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections article feature image

Pictured: Dusan Tadic.

  • Serbia returns to the World Cup with another strong squad.
  • We break down their roster, tactics and schedule.
  • Read on for more below.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Serbia ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Serbia World Cup Preview

Serbia return to the World Cup for the second consecutive time after topping Group A in the qualifiers, which was a group that included Portugal. It was one of the more dominating displays in qualification, as the Eagles were one of just seven countries in Europe to finish undefeated. It was capped off with a last-minute winner against Portugal in the final qualifying match to secure the top spot in the group.

Following up this strong showing, Serbia then won their group in the UEFA Nations League, outlasting Norway, Slovenia and Sweden with only one loss along the way. In those matches, the Eagles finished with a +4.77 xGDiff, and they won the xG battle in all but one of the fixtures. This is also the same team that averaged 2.67 big scoring chances and 1.64 xG created per 90 minutes.

Manager Dragan Stojković has multiple players in his squad that fans should recognize in Aleksandar Mitrović, Dušan Tadić and Dušan Vlahović make for a great attacking trio that will be difficult to stop. Vlahović has been battling a groin injury and may not make the trip, but Mitrović has been the lead man of the group, scoring eight goals in qualifying and adding six more in the Nations League. Stojković can also call on Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić and Nemanja Gudelj to help build out the spine of the squad.

Chances To…Action Projectionsbet365 Odds
Win Group Stage15.44%+600
Advance To Knockout Round49.32%+110
Win World Cup1.29%+8000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

In defense, Serbia will lean on a mixture of guys that play in Europe’s top leagues: Nikola Milenković, Miloš Veljković and Stefan Mitrović. Mallorca’s Predrag Rajković was the primary keeper during qualifying, but Torino’s Vanja Milinković-Savić was the man between the pipes during the Nations League matches. Rajković has had the better of the two domestic seasons so far this year, owning a +2.3 post-shot xG minus goals allowed mark. Whoever the manager goes with, this will be something to keep an eye on as we get into the tournament.

Serbia were drawn into Group G with favorites Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon, with an opening match against the Samba Kings. You always want to pick up a positive result in your first game, but the Eagles definitely got a difficult draw. Coming into the competition, Serbia are listed at No. 21 in the FIFA rankings, which trails both Brazil (1) and Switzerland (15) in the group. If they are able to get points out of the opener, the Eagles could have qualification secured for the knockout rounds before playing the Swiss in the final game of the group stages.

Key Player: Aleksandar Mitrović

One big reason that I feel Serbia can be a dangerous team in this World Cup is the fact that star striker Aleksandar Mitrović is entering the tournament on fire. The Fulham forward already has nine goals in 12 starts in the Premier League this season, and this comes after he broke the EFL Championship record for goals in a season with 43 in the last campaign.

In his return to the EPL, Mitrović has been a constant threat for the Cottagers, trailing only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane for goals xG.

However, he hasn’t just been banging in goals for his club team. Just last month, Mitrović scored his 50th international goal, reaching this milestone faster than both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi did for their respective countries. The Fulham striker led Serbia with eight goals in five starts during qualifying before adding six more in Nations League action.

If you haven’t watched much of the forward, he is a very physical striker that is always up for a battle, and Mitrović is very imposing in the air. It will be key that Tadić and others are able to provide him the service and crosses that he loves to take advantage of, especially if Vlahović misses out due to injury. 

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Tactical Analysis

Ever since Stojković was hired as manager in March 2021, he has typically used a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation with three center backs and two wing backs. The main differences will be how he wants to set up his attack, which could come down to whether Vlahović is fit and available. You will see some matches where Mitrović or the Juventus striker will lead the line by themselves with a pair of attacking midfielders, or he will pair the dangerous duo together.

With either of these formations, Stojković is able to have a strong defense to complement the attack. He used just the one forward in the all-important qualifying clincher against Portugal, with Mitrović then coming off the bench to score the winner. I would expect this more conservative lineup to be what Serbia uses against the more difficult opposition in Brazil and Switzerland, but he can get more aggressive if the Eagles need goals or expect to dominate Cameroon.

The big question will be whether Stojković elects to start Mitrović or Vlahović if he does want to use a lone striker. Whichever forward gets the nod, this Serbia team should have one of the best attacks in the competition.

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Serbia World Cup Schedule

Brazil2 p.m. ET, Nov. 24
Cameroon5 a.m. ET, Nov. 28
Switzerland2 p.m. ET, Dec. 2

Most Recent World Cup Result

Third Place, Group Stage (2018)

Serbia posted an opening match win against Costa Rica in the 2018 World Cup, but it was downhill from there. They lost to Switzerland and Brazil to finish the group in third place and exit the competition.

Serbia World Cup Roster

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