Serbia might have a tough time competing against the other teams in Group A as they have some injuries and players representing the nation in the U-20 World Cup that is taking place right now in New Zealand. But coach Mladen Dodic and his boys will try to put up a good fight and advance from the group.
The Czech Republic is hosting its second large sporting event this year, as they will be the site for the Under-21 European Championship that starts on June 17. The Czech Republic hosted the IIHF Hockey World Championship in May. Although it’s a under-21 tournament, as long as the players are born in or after 1992 they are eligible, making the maximum age 23. That’s because the qualifications for the tournament started in 2013.
The Serbians’ road to the tournament went through Group 9, where they had a hard-fought battle with Italy and Belgium for the group win. Italy came out on top with 18 points, Serbia and Belgium ended up with 16 points. Serbia won the head-to-head against Belgium and ended up in second place, and earning one of the second-placed teams that earned a spot in the qualification playoffs.
In the qualification playoffs, they went up against Spain in a matchup where the Spaniards were heavy favorites. But after a 0-0 draw in Jagodina, the Serbians won 2-1 in Spain at the Ramon de Carranza Stadium in Cadiz. It was a huge upset as Spain have been the winners of the last two U-21 Euros. The Serbian win broke a 35-match unbeaten run in competitive games for Spain.
The majority of the players in the squad come from the Serbian league, and FK Partizan and FK Cukaricki have three players each on the 23-man roster. A handful of players are playing in Europe, include team stars Milos Jojic (Borussia Dortmund) and Filip Kostic (Stuttgart) who both play in the German Bundesliga.
The Serbians are missing a trio of players that would have made this team a lot better in Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool) and Matija Nastasic (Chelsea). All three of them will be with the senior national team for Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Instead, the spotlight will be on Jojic and Kostic. Jojic made 10 appearances for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and two in the Champions League, but failed to score any goals. He has five caps with the senior national team, and he will have to be a leader for this side if they are going to be able to fight with the Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany.
Kostic had some trouble with his goalscoring for Stuttgart this season, only finding the back of the net three times in 29 appearances, although he came off the bench for 14 of those games.
Since they have beaten Spain, the confidence level should be high, and if Dodic can motivate his players and have them go all out in the attacking third then they might have a chance, but on paper they are not anywhere near Germany or Denmark.
June 17: Germany – Serbia
June 20: Serbia – Czech Republic
June 23: Denmark – Serbia
— UEFA Under-21 (@UEFAUnder21) May 29, 2015