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How Serbia qualified for the 2010 World Cup

Fresh from many names changes in the last decade or two, Serbia entered their first qualification campaign as an independent nation. The team were formerly known as Yugoslavia before competing as Serbia and Montenegro. However, the split with Montenegro has ensured that the majority of star players have stayed with Serbia making Montenegro the weaker country.

The Serbs were drawn in a tricky looking group containing France, Romania, Austria, Lithuania and minnows Faroe Islands. With only one team automatically qualifying, it looked a tough ask to finish ahead of the French and even the Romanians.

A comfortable first match at home to the Faroe Islands resulted in an expected 2-0 victory. Nevertheless, the news that France had lost 3-1 to Austria and that Romania had lost 3-0 to Lithunia gave them hope that the group may be more open than expected. A trip to the underperforming French was next on the agenda for Serbia. 2nd half goals from Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka put France into a 2-0 lead before Bratislav Ivanovic gave the Serbs hope in the 75th minute. However, the match ended in defeat and put France back in control.

Next up was a home game against Lithuania that Serbia comfortably won 3-0 before easing to a 3-1 away victory in Austria. Following that came a tricky looking tie away to Romania which the hosts realistically needed to win after a poor start. However, Serbia won their third game in a row by three goals to two to keep them at the top of the group ahead of France.

A tense 1-0 win against Austria continue their great run before another comfortable 2-0 triumph against the Faroe Islands. Even so, it was an occasion when Serbia weren’t playing that gave them the hope that they could actually win the group. On September 5th 2009, France drew 1-1 at home against Romania to fall four points behind Serbia. With still three games remaining including home matches against France and Romania, top spot was not yet secure.

The home match against France was critical to their progression. A brave display saw Serbia heroically draw 1-1 with the French to maintain the four point gap with only two matches remaining. A tense match at home to Romania was sure to follow. Nevertheless, Serbia showed the world their credentials with a superb 5-0 victory to book their place in South Africa next summer ahead of France, who would have to navigate qualifying via a tricky play off.

Even a final match defeat against Lithuania wasn’t enough to dent their celebrations as Serbia had managed to achieve qualification at the first time of being an independent nation.

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