What does reaching the World Cup mean to you? The chance to demonstrate my ability at the highest level with the best teams in the world. And to do that for my country, with players I have known for most of my life – that’s a great honour. We have a really good team spirit at the moment. We won our qualifying group that included France and Romania.
What type of football do Serbia play? We don’t have one overwhelming characteristic. Our defence is very strong, but we also beat Romania 5-0 in Belgrade.
Our very own Peter Crouch finds that international referees tend to penalise him because of his size. You’re a big lad too. How do you find international football? My height is certainly an advantage but also a disadvantage. It suits me to receive balls from the side or through the centre in the air, rather than the ball at my feet. I can beat smaller players in the air all the time. I am trying to improve when I receive the ball towards my legs and feet. The disadvantage is that I’m not as fast as some of the players who have a burst of pace. Smaller players react quicker than me and I prefer to play against taller players. I am fast considering my height, though.
Do you think that your group is the group of death? Yes, because if you look at the rankings, every team is in the top 40 in the world. Ghana is a very dangerous rival. I watched them play several times in the African Cup of Nations. They impressed me, and certainly know how to play. They are physically very strong – everyone knows that – but they are tactically smart, too. We play them first and that’s a crucial game for us.
Germany are the favourites for the group and one of the candidates expected to win the World Cup. But Serbia have proved that we can play against anyone and that we can be equal to any great team. I know less about Australia, but I remember them being hard to beat in Germany and that Italy were lucky to beat them.
How do you expect Serbia to do? Our group is difficult, but we hope to qualify from it. After that, we’ll just have to see.
Were you surprised when Serbia & Montenegro lost 6-0 to Argentina in the last World Cup? There were many bad moments during that game. I am trying to forget it. It’s hard, though, because people keep reminding us of it.
What’s your first World Cup memory? Italia 1990. Roger Milla and Diego Maradona. Yugoslavia lost to Germany, but then beat Colombia and the UAE. There were great players like Pancev, Stojkovic, Savicevic and Prosinecki. We knocked Spain out of the second round and then drew 0-0 with Argentina in the quarter-finals, which went to penalties. Maradona missed his kick, but they beat us 3-2 on penalties. I was a fan of Red Star Belgrade – a real footballing team. They had a great club side at that stage and won the European Cup in 1991.
What’s the most difficult part of being a footballer? When you don’t see your family for so long.
If you weren’t a footballer, would you be a basketball player? Yes, either basketball or volleyball. Both are very popular in Serbia.
The Serbs are renowned for their passionate supporters. Which other country has the best supporters? Actually, I think that England has the best supporters. They travel in huge numbers wherever they play and they always support the team, even if they lose.
How will England do in South Africa? They are an option. Brazil and Spain are the two favourites. Spain demonstrated their quality when they won Euro 2008. They continued to play well in qualifying. They play the fastest football and have individuals who know how to use free space in the best possible way. They also present a big threat in front of goal. Brazil, on the other hand, are an exceptionally strong team and I think we’ll see a great match if these two meet. England… I’d put them with Germany and Argentina. They need more luck to win, but they have the capability.
Which Serb players should we watch out for? Our strength is our unity as a team. Nemanja Vidic is our most famous player. He missed the last World Cup and will be very motivated to show that he is an excellent player of the highest quality, which he is.
Interview: June 2010.