Serbia coach Radomir Antić has promised that his team will continue to parade their commitment to attacking football in South Africa next summer after they clinched a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals on Saturday.
Antić's side overcame Romania 5-0 at home to seal their status as Group 7 winners with a game to spare, confirming top spot in the only section featuring three teams that competed at UEFA EURO 2008™. With qualification now settled, they can begin planning their first appearance on the global stage since parting ways with Montenegro in 2006. "I'm delighted," said Antić after the Romania game. "We deserve this success. We were always true to ourselves, we had self-confidence and we also had respect for everyone, but in particular ourselves. Now we want to continue. I know we'll never be the lesser team; we'll always give 100 per cent and play attacking football. What our ultimate target is, we'll see in South Africa."
The former Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona coach, who took over last year, was none the less reluctant to measure his current crop of players against the Serbia and Montengro squad that succumbed at the group stage in 2006 or the Yugoslavia selection that reached the 1998 last 16. "I don't want to compare my guys with previous generations," he said. "We're just focusing on our own chances and ideas. At the moment, my primary feeling is pride. I've coached a few big European clubs and I've worked for more than 20 years, but this is something special. The team and I want to share this emotional moment with everybody in Serbia. I'm especially happy because we sealed our route to the south of the world from Belgrade, our capital, with the help of the crowd and millions of Serbians. We play for them."
Another man delighted with Saturday's outcome was captain Dejan Stanković, who will become the first Serbian international to appear in three World Cup finals after featuring in Germany three years ago and at France '98. "We deserve this success because we've believed in our chances for the last 14 months," he said. "Our route was more than hard because we faced a strong France side, the quality of Romania, a surprising Austria and also Lithuania. But we just did our job and kept concentrating. This is a more than special moment in my life."
"Everyone deserves to live through something like this," added forward Marko Pantelić, who scored Serbia's second goal on Saturday. "After [the] match, the Serbian players and technical staff went on a tour across Belgrade in an open-top bus and more than 50,000 people came out on to the streets. There were no incidents, it was a brilliant atmosphere and they celebrated a great success – qualification for the final tournament." All that remains now is for Pantelić and Co to sign off in appropriate style in their final Group 7 outing away to Lithuania on Wednesday.
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