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Serbia finding their feet

Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 14.48CET
The Republic of Serbia was declared in only 2006 but has already made an impact on the football stage.
Serbia finding their feet
Serbia celebrate reaching the 2010 World Cup finals after a 5-0 win against Romania ©AFP
Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 14.48CET

Serbia finding their feet

The Republic of Serbia was declared in only 2006 but has already made an impact on the football stage.

The Football Association of Serbia (Fudbalski savez Srbije or FSS) was originally founded in 1919 as the Yugoslav Football Association, and gained admittance to FIFA and UEFA in 1921 and 1954 respectively.

Yugoslavia played their first international against Czechoslovakia at the Olympic Games in Antwerp on 28 August 1920, losing 7-0. However, major achievements were not long in coming as the country proceeded to participate in five Olympics and eight FIFA World Cups. They were Olympic champions in Rome in 1960, silver medallists in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956), and bronze medallists in Los Angeles (1984).

They also appeared regularly in World Cup tournaments: Uruguay in 1930, reaching the semi-finals; Brazil (1950); Switzerland (1954); Chile (1962) where they came fourth; Germany (1974); Spain (1982); Italy (1990); and France (1998). In addition, Yugoslavia featured five times in the final round of the UEFA European Championship. Runners-up in Paris (1960) and Rome (1968), they finished fourth in Belgrade in 1976 and also competed in France (1984) and Belgium/Netherlands (2000). However, Olympics apart, major honours have been the preserve of the younger representative sides.

Yugoslavia's Under-21s were European champions in 1978 and then triumphed in the International Youth Tournament a year later. More celebrations followed with victory at the 1987 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile. On an individual level the legendary Dragan Džajic held the record for national-team caps with 85 until overtaken by Savo Milošević, who retired on 102; Stjepan Bobek still leads the goalscoring chart with 38.

Arguably the greatest international achievement by a Yugoslavian side has been FK Crvena zvezda's victory over Olympique de Marseille in the European Champion Clubs' Cup final of 1991: they won 5-4 on penalties in Bari after a 0-0 draw. Later that year Crvena zvezda beat CD Colo Colo of Chile 3-0 in the European/South American Cup in Tokyo. FK Partizan, also of Belgrade, had got close to realising European Cup success but lost the 1966 final in Brussels 2-1 to Real Madrid CF. Both capital clubs have also performed outstandingly in domestic competitions.

All these events have taken place against a backdrop of political flux. From 1919 to 1941 Yugoslavia was a kingdom but in 1946 it became a republic and subsequently underwent several changes of identity. Between 1946 and 1963 it was the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, until it finally fragmented in 1992. In the latter period the country consisted of six republics: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia.

In 1992 the new state of Serbia and Montenegro was named the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the same year a United Nations resolution imposing sanctions on the country was extended to sport. Consequently, the national team was sent back from the EURO '92 finals in Sweden despite having qualified on merit. For the same reason it was prohibited from taking part in qualifying for both the 1994 World Cup and EURO '96.

In February 2003 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia changed its name once again to Serbia and Montenegro. Finally, in June 2006, Serbia and Montenegro became separate nations and the Republic of Serbia was declared. Serbia's first international as a single entity came against the Czech Republic in August 2006 and success soon arrived: they qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa under coach Radomir Antić. Now the FSS, with its headquarters in Belgrade, is responsible for all football activities in the country and is an independent, democratic, non-governmental, and politically and religiously neutral association.

Last updated: 12/03/14 16.07CET

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