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FIFA World Cup 2018: Serbia, Switzerland face-off in crunch Group E clash

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in their group stage opener and a win over the Swiss at the Samara Arena will nearly propel them to the second round.

Reported by: IANS, KALININGRAD, Russia [ Published on: June 22, 2018 11:07 IST ]
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

A file image of Switzerland football team.

Serbia will face a big challenge bidding to register their second consecutive win, this time against a Swiss side that is confident after holding Brazil to a draw when they face-off in a FIFA World Cup Group E game on Friday.

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0, riding on Aleksandar Kolarov's left-footed free-kick, in their group stage opener. And a win over the Swiss at the Samara Arena will nearly propel them to the second round but it will be yet another complex game.

Switzerland have lost just one of their last 23 matches: a 0-2 defeat to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier last October. In pre-World Cup friendlies, the European side drew 1-1 with Spain and beat Japan 2-0.

Vladimir Petkovic-coached Switzerland carried on that form with an impressive 1-1 draw against Brazil in their World Cup opener on Sunday, showing remarkable defensive solidity and enough potency in attack to suggest that they might cause Serbia problems in Kaliningrad.

For Switzerland, Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji are likely to play in central defence and there is a chance Johan Djourou could also start. Stephen Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez will be the full backs with Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami in midfield. Up front Xherdan Shaqiri, Steven Zuber and centre-forward forward Haris Seferovic will provide pace on the break. 

The match against Brazil showed the Swiss can soak up a lot of pressure and keep their shape when they don't have the ball, which will be important too on Friday.

For Serbia, holding midfielder Nemanja Matic, who is indispensable in the Manchester United midfield, will be key in his ball distribution.

Southampton's midfielder Dusan Tadic, has 51 caps and 13 goals for Serbia, and contributes a lot at the offensive end, as is Torino's Adam Ljajic. Serbia also have a dynamic midfielder in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is coming off a fantastic season with SSC Lazio in the Italian Serie A. 

In front of the trio will be rising star Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is currently at Fulham on loan from Newcastle United, appears to be irreplaceable for his national team. With 36 caps, the 23-year-old has scored 13 goals, making him the most efficient scorer for Serbia.

Branislav Ivanovic and Kolarov serve as the team's previous and new captains. The 34-year-old former Chelsea right-back and the Roma left-sided defender, are both competent in different positions in the defence. Other defenders are youngster Nikola Milinkovic, Antonio Rukavina, 34, and Duško Tošic, 33.

Kolarov cautioned that the Serbs would take nothing for granted against the Swiss. "It's very important that we have these three points in the bag, but it's not over, Switzerland will be the hardest match," he said. 

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

This will be the first match featuring Switzerland against Serbia as an independent nation. In 13 matches between Switzerland and Yugoslavia, the latter won six, drew five and lost just two.

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