BELGRADE - Serbia have sacked coach Radomir Antic and named former Yugoslavia midfielder Vladimir Petrovic as his replacement.
Antic has been at loggerheads with Serbian Football Association (FSS) chief Tomislav Karadzic since the team's early World Cup exit in June.
The coach had to take a drastic pay cut to stay in charge but last week's 1-1 home draw with Slovenia seems to have cost him his job. "We made a unanimous decision to terminate the contract with Antic. We gave him a second chance after the World Cup fiasco but we got ourselves into a predicament and really had no choice," Karadzic told a news conference.
"Antic turned out to be a good short-term solution but left a lot to be desired in the long run. Petrovic will sign until the end of 2011 and his contract will be automatically extended if we qualify for Euro 2012."
Serbia were knocked out in the first round of the World Cup after a 2-1 defeat by Australia, when Antic insulted the referee and was given a four-game touchline ban by FIFA.
Karadzic was also less than pleased with the performance of his backroom staff when they deputised for the 61-year-old Antic for the 3-0 win over Faroe Islands and the fortuitous draw with Slovenia in Euro 2012 qualifying earlier this month.
"Antic's assistants have also been relieved of their duties and Petrovic will be able to choose his own staff," said Karadzic.
The FSS chief added Antic's successful 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign would "never be forgotten".
Petrovic, who played for English club Arsenal in the 1982-83 season and made 34 appearances for the former Yugoslavia, was a skilful player.
He was then assistant coach when Red Star Belgrade, where he grew up as a player, won the European Cup in 1991 and also steered Serbia and Montenegro to the final of the 2004 European under-21 championship in Germany.
Petrovic had a brief spell with Red Star last season before taking charge of Romanian first division Timisoara where he recorded two league wins and five draws in seven games at the start of this campaign.
"Rather than go for an expensive import we opted to give a talented home-grown coach a chance," Karadzic said.
"We know sacking a coach in the middle of a qualifying campaign is not ideal and we know we are taking a risk but in football that's inevitable sometimes.
"We will do all we can to qualify for Euro 2012 but it is not imperative because stronger teams than Serbia failed to qualify for recent major tournaments and it won't be a disaster if we don't make it," added Karadzic.
"We have gone as far as we could with Antic and the most important thing now is to rebuild the kind of atmosphere he instilled when he took over in 2008."
Serbia host Euro 2012 Group C rivals Estonia on Oct. 8 and visit leaders Italy four days later.