Bratstvo i jedinstvoPosted: June 11, 2011
– “Brotherhood and unity.”
Yugoslavia was a former state that has gone through many break-ups and reformations after a lot of political unrest, but the Socialist Federal Republic of the nation came to a cease in 1992. The country comprised of today’s Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia. The most that the Yugoslavian football team was able to achieve were a respectable World Cup 1962 semi finals appearance and Euro ’60 and ’68 runners ups.
But what if the former state was still a nation today? But, more important than politics or the unrest, what would their football team look like? Would they be successful, or a decent team at all?
Croatia may be considered the best of the six teams that make up the former Yugoslavia. They boast regular World Cup and European championships appearances, however they haven’t made a real impression on the tournaments since their 3rd place 1998 World Cup finish.They currently lie 10th in the FIFA World rankings and very recently defeated England 3-2 in Wembley to crush their hopes of qualifying for The Euro 2008 Championships.
So Croatia are quite a good team. But not the best in the world, with all due respect. Lets hand-pick bits a pieces of all of the teams to choose from, and see what the 2011 Yugoslavia football team looks like, and estimate how this nation bereft of major international honours would fare today. I have selected my first XI if I was given the job of the Yugoslavian first team coach, and it looks as follows:
1. Goalkeeper – Samir Handanovic (Udinese, Slovenia). Handanovic is a fantastic goalkeeper who has played the majority of his career in Italy. He has helped his team finish in fourth place this season, earning Champions League football for Udinese for the first time since 2005. Handanovic is also 5 saves short of the all time Serie A penalty save record.
2. Right-back – Dario Srna (Shaktar Donetsk, Croatia). Captain of his club and country, Srna is a player I much admire and simply couldn’t leave out of this team. A very attacking wing-back, Srna constantly attacks from the right wing and supports his winger, all the while being a very accomplished and solid defender.
3. Left-back – Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City, Serbia). Kolarov is a similar style full-back to Srna in that he likes to push forward and often makes overlapping runs on his wing to try to stretch the opposition’s defence. Kolarov is also versatile and can play centre-back as well as left wing, and has an excellent strike of the ball when he gets a chance to show it. The Serbian is also one of the few Manchester City players that I’d argue that are worth the money that City paid for them; £16 million. Or at least, not as ridiculous a price as some of his teammates.
4. Centre-back – Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea, Serbia). Another versatile player, I’ve chosen Ivanovic to play centre-back for my Yugoslavian team. A very accomplished player with one of Europe’s most successful clubs in recent years, Ivanovic is a strong addition to any team.
5. Centre-back – Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United, Serbia). Vidic completes the Serbian trio of the defence for this Yugoslav team, as well as the same Premier League trio. Vidic’s qualities are well known throughout the world of football. One of the most reliable and consistent centre-backs in the world, Vidic is also the player who I’d make captain of this team. A strong leader and great defender, the Serb would make it into most people’s top world XI.
6. Centre-mid – Luca Modric (Tottenham, Croatia). One of the most creative central midfielders around, Modric would play as the attacking half of the central midfield partnership with Stankovic. An excellent passer of the ball, Modric would find a lot of joy playing with the wingers and attacking full-backs of this team.
8. Centre-mid – Dejan Stankovic (Inter, Serbia). Stankovic has been ever-present in one of Inter’s most successful ever periods, and he has also won another Scudetto with Lazio. The Serbia captain is also a versatile midfield player, as he can play in both an attacking role and also a holding one. In this set-up he’d need to play in a defensive position and he’s more than capable of the task. A very tough, strong midfielder, Stankovic would be one of the most important players in this predominantly attacking team.
7. Right-wing – Milos Krasic (Juventus, Serbia). Krasic was noticed by many top European clubs while playing for CSKA Moscow in the champions league, with impressive performances against Manchester United especially. The winger has been dubbed the next Pavel Nedved, and it’s easy to see why, and not just in looks. Krasic has been one of Juventus’ best players last year in a season of a lot of inconsistency and as a result, he has made himself one of the club’s most important players.
11. Left-wing – Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich, Croatia). The Bayern Munich player can play both on the wing and in defense, and as a result can be very interchangeable with Kolarov on his wing providing a good measure of balance. Predominantly used in a defensive position for Croatia but in an attacking position for his club, he’s got plenty of experience in both positions, although he’s yet to score an international goal in his career in 38 appearances. He has however, provided a number of important assists throughout his international career.
9. Striker – Goran Pandev (Inter, Macedonia). The Internazionale star is another country captain that makes it into this side. Pandev hasn’t been as prolific in goalscoring for his current club, however his past record for Lazio and Macedonia speaks for itself while the forward is also very capable of finding assists.
10. Striker – Edin Dzeko (Manchester City, Bosnia). Dzeko was wanted by a host of top European clubs including AC Milan and Juventus, before he signed for the Premier League side last January. The “Bosnian Diamond” was impecable for Wolfsburg before his signing and is also one of his country’s top footballing talents. At 25, Dzeko is still to reach his peak, and looks to do so in a continuously improving City side.
Other players who came close but didn’t make the starting line up are Ivan Rakitic, Mirko Vucinic, Stipe Pletikosa, Ivica Olic, Niko Kranjcar, Neven Subotic, Miralem Pjanic and Vedran Corluka.
Through the whole pitch, this side has excellent quality. Big names and stars from 1 to 11, Yugoslavia would be a major world force if still together. Even players who didn’t make it into the first eleven are great players plying their trade at top levels throughout Europe.
It would be very interesting to see this team competing for the European Championships 2012, or World Cup 2014. A Yugoslavian manager would have a lot to pick from today, and the team would no doubt go far. Obviously though, it won’t happen, and this potentially great team will never get the chance to perform together. They lose out themselves, in that they won’t have the chance to play in such a great side and make real challenges every two years for major honours, between world cups and European championships. But more so, it’s the footballing world’s loss, as we miss out on seeing how good this team could be.