What: FIFA 2010 World Cup
Who: Australia vs Serbia (Group D)
When: Wednesday 23rd June, 2010, at 19:30 UK Time
Where: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, South Africa

A Chance for Redemption

It hasn’t been the dream World Cup for Australia. A veritable shell shocking against Germany was humiliating for all Australian fans and many were calling for the head of coach Pim Verbeek. However, after a much more pleasing performance against Ghana, albeit marred by yet another red card decision, the onus will be on the Qantas Socceroos to end their group games with a bang.

Brett Holman, scorer of the Australians’ only goal in the finals so far this year, has looked impressive with his runs off the ball and his continual eagerness to close down the opposition. Also Luke Wilkshire, Australia’s most consistent performer, almost wrote himself into the papers against Ghana, but scuffed his shot.

So far dogged by some harsh refereeing, the ever resilient Australians will be looking to play their trademark battling style to give their country something to cheer about, unfortunately without talisman Harry Kewell (after his sending off) and veteran defender Craig Moore.

Balkan Boys Back in Business

Serbia were left wondering where it all went wrong after going down to Ghana in their first match after dominating proceedings before Aleksander Lukovic claimed his second yellow of the game and was then told to have an early shower. Seemingly complacent up until that point, the Radomir Antic coached squad went down to a late penalty. The legendary coach was left fuming after that game, but Serbia picked themselves up against Germany, perhaps fortuitously due to the soft sending off of Miroslav Klose, and went on to notch a 1-0 win.

There was much more to like about Serbia’s performance against Germany than Australia, with Milos Krasic and Milan Jovanovic becoming much more involved, with the latter slotting past Manuel Neuer to give the Balkan nation their first win in the World Cup since breaking away from Yugoslavia.

Against Australia, Antic will be happy to have a full squad to choose from, and the wily old manager will be quietly confident.

Recent form

Australia 1-3 USA (01/06; Friendly)
Australia 0–4 Germany (13/06 World Cup – Group D)
Australia 1–1 Ghana (20/06 World Cup – Group D)

Serbia 4–3 Cameroon (05/06; Friendly)
Serbia 0–1 Ghana (13/06 World Cup – Group D)
Serbia 1–0 Germany (18/06 World Cup – Group D)

Players to watch

Australia – Tim Cahill: The Everton midfielder is back for the Australians after a disappointing game against Germany where he was virtually anonymous until his untimely sending off. Incredibly important to most of the good things about Australia’s attack, Cahill will be certain to play in behind man mountain Joshua Kennedy in order to make those trademark runs into the box. A key player against any team, but against Serbia, the stage is set for a virtuoso performance.

Serbia – Milos Krasic: There’s a reason more than a few top flight European clubs have been chasing down the talented CSKA Moscow winger, and although there were only glimpses against Germany, Krasic is certainly one that will cause Australia problems. The winger will be looking to attack the Australian left flank, which is probably the weakest link in the Socceroos’ formation. Look out for the speedster as he looks to get behind Australia’s defence to provide those dangerous crosses for Nikola Zigic.

Match prediction

This is a must win game for both sides. Australia need the win in order to be in with a shout of qualification, and Serbia must win in order to qualify. A draw simply won’t do for either team; and it could well open up both sides and provide a free flowing attacking game.

On paper, Serbia have the bigger names and the better players, but Australia are known for their mental strength and perseverance, particularly in the big matches. In the end, it may well be a case of two talented sides cancelling each other out, but Serbia will be the most likely of the two to edge it.

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