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Serbia remain upbeat despite dropping to third

Published: Saturday 8 October 2011, 13.30CET
Held at home by Italy and down to third in Group C, Serbia were nevertheless "not disappointed", instead drawing positives from the knowledge they remain in charge of the hunt for second.
by Peter Murphy
from Belgrade
Published: Saturday 8 October 2011, 13.30CET

Serbia remain upbeat despite dropping to third

Held at home by Italy and down to third in Group C, Serbia were nevertheless "not disappointed", instead drawing positives from the knowledge they remain in charge of the hunt for second.

Serbia may have slipped to third in Group C following Friday's 1-1 draw against Italy, but there remains optimism aplenty that Vladimir Petrović's squad can secure a runners-up spot on Tuesday.

Estonia came from behind to beat Northern Ireland 2-1 and move into second in the section at Serbia's expense, but have now completed their campaign and must wait and see how next week's fixtures pan out. Serbia, therefore, remain in control – victory against Slovenia in Maribor will ensure they finish behind Italy and enter Thursday's play-off draw.

"We did some good pressing, we did what the coach asked us to do," said Serbia's Neven Subotić of the point gained against the Azzurri. "We got close to goal a lot of times against a world-class team like Italy, so against Slovenia, if we keep up the pace and the aggression, then it looks good for us."

"The only thing we didn't do was score another goal, that was the only thing missing. Sometimes at the moment we can't score the goal even though we're the better team. Then Northern Ireland were beaten [by Estonia] in the last five minutes."

Villarreal CF striker Giuseppe Rossi was particularly instrumental to the visitors' display in Belgrade, notably playing a key role in Cesare Prandelli's team's opener just two minutes in. Serbia allowed a speculative ball forward to bounce and Rossi wrestled control of possession before sending Claudio Marchisio through to slot past Bojan Jorgačević and leave Serbia facing an uphill struggle.

Rossi expressed satisfaction with Italy's night's work in the Serbian capital. "We defended well, and we attacked well," he said. "It was a tough game, of course, playing away against a good team. They put us under pressure as they needed points and we had already qualified. We're happy with this result, happy to win the group, and to make progress."

Serbia's Marko Pantelić congratulated Italy on their qualification and topping the section but was determined to focus on the positives for his own team. "I'm not disappointed, 1-1 against Italy is a good result," he said. "Still we have everything in our hands – if we win in Slovenia."

Last updated: 26/10/12 14.02CET

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