Friday night’s international fixture list has drawn up some exciting ties, but none can compare with the 2014 World Cup qualifier between Croatia and Serbia.
On the pitch, Croatia sit in second place of Group A, lying six points ahead of Serbia in third, meaning the Serbs can’t afford to lose.
However, it’s off the pitch where the headlines have been made.
Formerly Yugoslavia, the country collapsed in the early 1990s and broke into many different countries such as Serbia and Croatia due to war. These two countries have shown hatred toward each other ever since, and this is the first time that the two sides will meet since their independence.
Also, Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who was born in Croatia and so nearly played for them, goes up against old foe Igor Stimac, the coach of Croatia with a long running feud between the two.
Now considered an icon of Serbian nationalism, Mihajlovic has slammed Stimac for his political views claiming he will never forgive him for past remarks insulting Serbs.
With so much hostility between the two nations, it may be a good thing that Serbia fans are banned from entering the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb on Friday night, with Croatia fans also banned for the return fixture.
With fears of the game getting out of hand, Croatia captain Darijo Srna told FIFA.com: “I’d like to emphasise that the history between our countries can’t be changed on the pitch, despite our on-field rivalry. We play football. None of us can change the past, but we can influence the future. Now we have to lead by example and put on a great match together, without any scandals.”
The match has been met with so much optimism between the two nations in recent weeks with former Croatian international Dario Simic going as far to say: “It is a fight for domination in the region.”
Croatia will be considered favourites for the match, but Serbia fans will be hoping to cause an upset, and with so much motivation and rivalry anything can happen.
With all these reasons in mind, it has to be considered the most interested match of the night.
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