Serbia crashed to their first ever home defeat since becoming a indepedent football nation four years ago, losing 3-1 to Estonia in a European qualifier on Friday night.
In five months the team have gone from world cup outsiders to fifth place in group C for Euro 2012.
After a glorious qualification campaign for World Cup 2006, when they performed as Serbia and Montenegro, the side flopped in the tournament finishing bottom of their group at the tournament and could not life themselves for the following European 2008 qualifying.
After bringing Radomir Antic in as head coach, the team now as Serbia, progressed and clinched a place at this summers World Cup in South Africa ahead of France. Sadly the team did not deliver on the promise it had shown and they crashed out bottom of their group. Antic for his criticism of the referee in the final group game against Australia earned himself a four game FIFA touchline ban which meant he would be in the stands for the start of Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The ongoing conflict between Antic and the Serbian FA would ultimatly have only one winner.
At first the FA said that Antic would need to take a paycut as the team’s poor performance during the World Cup had reduced their revenue. The poor performance of the team, they felt, was Antic’s fault so if he wanted to stay he would have to take a paycut, so the coach said yes. He reduced his wages by 50% to stay on in the job which was really not what the FA had wanted.
Antic was never the agreeable individual the Serbian FA had wanted but the success he brought on the pitch, with the 22 points from 10 games to qualify for South Africa 2010 and the fact that the national team were once again selling out their home matches due to the exciting brand of football being played, meant that he was untouchable. But after only 2 qualifying games of the new campaign the axe was swung and Antic was gone.
The reason given was that a coach can not lead a team from the stands but at least the coach from the stand did not lose at home.
Vladimir Petrovic the new icumbent has a tough job ahead of him. Moral is low with the squad and the fans do not seem too impressed with the coaching change, but he could not have had an easier first game, home to Estonia. The press in Belgrade were not too concered with the game, instead looking ahead to the tie with Italy in Genoa which seemed like the clashes that would determine the group winners.
A real fight now lies ahead to qualify for their first Euro since 2000 but perhaps a recovering Italy should not be judged as to frightening a barrier to come up against. Group C does appear very open group where it looks that all the teams, bar the Faroe Isles, seem capable of taking points off each other but with 6 games to go Petrovic needs his players to start performing now.
Also see our Euro 2012 Qualifiers page for all the Euro 2012 qualifying fixtures.