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Štimac, Mihajlović looking at bigger picture

Published: Monday 18 March 2013, 10.55CET
Second-placed Croatia host Serbia, in third, on Friday with both coaches playing down the significance of the Balkan derby in determining how Group A ultimately pans out.

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Published: Monday 18 March 2013, 10.55CET

Štimac, Mihajlović looking at bigger picture

Second-placed Croatia host Serbia, in third, on Friday with both coaches playing down the significance of the Balkan derby in determining how Group A ultimately pans out.

Croatia and Serbia meet for the first time on Friday in what is guaranteed to be a passionate and highly-charged FIFA World Cup qualifier in Zagreb.

Yet while the atmosphere at the Stadion Maksimir is sure to be fervent and partisan, both coaches are treating the Group A encounter like any other – publicly at least.

Though victory for Igor Štimac's hosts could propel them to the summit, depending on how leaders Belgium fare against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and take them nine points clear of third-placed Serbia, the former Croatia defender maintains the match will not be "decisive" for either side.

"Every game carries the same amount of points and all opponents are very difficult," said Štimac, whose team have beaten FYROM (twice) and Wales and drawn with Belgium in their four qualifiers to date. "For the first time Croatia are in a group where there is no team that can be considered outsiders."

Serbia's Siniša Mihajlović, meanwhile, is downplaying the significance of the Balkan derby. "The match with Croatia is the same as a match with Belgium," he said. "If we win we will gain three points. If the match could bring us six points it would be different."

What is not up for debate, however, is Serbia's need for a victory in the Croatian capital. Mihajlović's team have only registered one win in four in the section – a 6-1 success against Wales in September – yet the former Yugoslavia left-back is "convinced we [still] have a good chance to qualify" for the finals in Brazil. "I believe in my players and I believe in myself, so I'm very optimistic."

To hear more from the coaches of Croatia and Serbia click on the video player above.

Last updated: 22/03/13 15.48CET

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