CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) runs the rule over the Wales-Serbia game this Saturday.
Wales v Serbia | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
Whoever qualifies from this particular World Cup qualifying group deserves huge respect as it’s a mightily looking tough section. On Saturday third place Wales host top of the table Serbia in what looks a landmark clash in the group.
Poppies and hangovers
Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales come into this a little unsteady on their feet. First they’ve had to wrestle with the whole poppy debate and have taken the brave/foolish decision not to wear the emblem on Saturday. Hey, it’s the 12th, give them a break.
On top of the poppy furore (this didn’t happen when I was a kid, by the way) they also have to deal with the fact they dropped two points in their last home game in this campaign.
That match didn’t involve a nation the size of Serbia, but Georgia. Yes, Robert Prosinecki’s side have had the purists drooling and they certainly look progressive but one would have to conclude that that was two points dropped last month.
I’m a huge fan of the hangover theory and have grave reservations about Wales being able to (sub-consciously even) maintain the levels they reached in their last campaign.
International football history is littered with examples of smaller nations going far in tournaments and dropping off the pace the following campaign. Leicester this season are a decent example at club level.
The promise of Serbia
The cool kids (you know, the ones that read Blizzard and wank about three at the back formations) have had their eye on Serbia for a couple of years to really start kicking the international door in. Armed with the likes of Matija Nastasic, Nemaja Matic, Dusan Tadic et al and the fact their U20 collective won the World Cup last year bodes very well.
After an arse of a Euro 2016 campaign that involved drones and deep disappointment they’ve managed to rouse themselves this time round for a Russian conquest.
Seven points out of nine so far is a decent return after a home win against Austria and in Moldova but the draw on home turf against Republic Of Ireland may come back to haunt them after being 2-1 up with 10 minutes left.
New campaign, new promise
The Welsh home record during Euro 2016 qualification was solid with three wins and two draws from the five matches but they hardly set the world on fire drawing with Bosnia and Isreal and scoring no more than two against Andorra and Cyprus.
I wonder if that home draw against Georgia last month may have blunted them a little. May have robbed them of that steely belief that seeped through them in the summer.
Serbia’s away record is poor with five road defeats in their last eight matches but with this new campaign comes a fresh start and they’ll see this as a chance to attack an opportunity. BetVictor offer 5/6 on Serbia getting a +0.25 start, I’ll take that.
Wales v Serbia – Serbia +0.25 (5/6 BetVictor)