Wednesday, 24th of March 2021
FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Serbia vs Republic of Ireland
Venue – Stadion Rajko Mitic
Kick Off – 7.45 pm
Odds – Home Win 4/7 Draw 12/5 Away Win 5/1
Watch On – RTE 2 + Sky Sports Football
On paper, Ireland fans can be somewhat hopeful of qualifying from this group.
The Irish and Serbs were drawn together in the same qualifier group for the 2018 World Cup too.
Ireland failed the register a win against their European counterparts. Serbia picked up four points over the previous two meetings between the nations. Helping them finish above Ireland, and advance to the World Cup in Russia.
However, things are different these days.
Both nations have heavily shuffled their squads since, and even have new managers prowling the side-lines.
Serbia won’t be coming into this one full of confidence.
They’ve only registered two wins in their last ten games.
Wednesday’s match will also be the first one under the guidance of new manager, Dragan Stojkovic. Making things a little bit more uncertain on how they’ll line out.
Saying that, Serbia will fancy themselves on home soil.
They’ve only registered two defeats in their last ten games at home, they even battered Russia 5-0 in their most recent game in Belgrade. A win against Ireland would also give them their first back-to-back home victories since 2017.
Serbia can call on notable names like Aleksander Mitrovic, Luka Jovic, Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Ireland should also be wary of striker Dusan Vlahovic.
The 21-year-old has scored 12 goals this season for Serie A side, Florentina. Standing at 6ft 3, he will also be a real handful for the Irish defence in terms of physicality.
Republic of Ireland
It’s been a turbulent start for Stephen Kenny as Republic of Ireland manager.
His side hasn’t scored in seven games, and he still hasn’t picked up a win from his eight games in charge. Overall, Ireland is without a competitive win since June 2019.
Kenny’s managerial reign has been engulfed with bad luck.
His squad has been riddled with injury and illness at every turn. Plus, he has lost both Damien Duff and Alan Kelly from his coaching staff.
Again, Kenny will be missing some experienced pros for this game, leaving a heavy reliance on the younger generation to step up.
Goalkeepers Darren Randolph and Caoimhin Kelleher are out with injuries. John Egan, James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane, Callum O’Dowda and Kevin Long have all been ruled out. Meaning both Conor Coventry and Darragh Lenihan have come in as late call ups.
Despite remaining in the squad, questions still linger around the fitness of James McClean too.
Considering all of this, a draw would be a cracking result for Ireland.
Stephen Kenny’s men host Luxembourg in the Aviva Stadium this weekend, a game that any Ireland team should be winning. Four points from the opening two games wouldn’t be a bad start at all.
Prediction – Hate to say it, but a tight Serbia win, probably 1-0.