Serbia vs Republic of Ireland Preview: O'Neil's men face a tricky opener in World Cup qualifier
Image source: Sky Sports

Serbia vs Republic of Ireland Preview: O'Neil's men face a tricky opener in World Cup qualifier

The Boys in Green travel to Belgrade, to face off against Serbia in their first World Cup qualifier.

Liam Headd

Republic of Ireland and Serbia go head to head in Belgrade on Monday night as both sides look to get of too a winning start in their respective 2018 World Cup qualifying campaigns.

Martin O'Neil's men are coming into this game in strong form, having secured a 4-0 home win against Oman on Wednesday night, as well as having a successful summer at the European Championships in France. Ireland were drawn in a group with Italy, Belgium and Sweden at Euro 2016, and after their historic 1-0 win over the Italians, they progressed out of the group. 

Unfortunately for them, hosts France were their last 16 opponents which resulted in a 2-1 defeat in Lyon

As far as Serbia are concerned, the nation were surprisingly absent from the tournament in France after a disappointing qualifying campaign, leaving the team with something to prove ahead of World Cup qualification. 

History between the two sides

The meeting on Monday will only be the fourth time that the two have faced each other in an International fixture. On the previous three occasions, there have been two draws and also one win for Serbia - being the most recent result between the sides. 

However, the win for Serbia in Dublin was the first defeat of O'Neil's reign as Irish manager. Despite Shane Long's opener inside eight minutes, Serbia fought back to score two second half goals and win the encounter.

This will be the first time that the two teams have come up against each other in a competitive competition.

The Irish have a tricky task ahead of them as Serbia have a very strong home record in previous World Cup qualifiers. The home side have only lost one of their previous 10 qualifiers at home - a 3-0 defeat to Belgium in 2012. On paper, the odds are against O'Neil and his players, as they have only won just two of their eight matches, with one being that famous victory in Lille over Italy.

The ones to watch

After his brilliant performances at Euro 2016, Jeff Hendrick has been one of the stand out players to keep an eye on. As a result of this, he earned a move to the Premier League with new boys Burnley

The Irish midfielder is likely to start against Serbia on Monday, and once again cause a huge threat in the middle of the field. The former Derby County man showed in France that he isn't afraid of putting a tackle in, and also having a shot on goal. If Serbia are to get anything from this game, they need to be aware of Hendrick.

Serbia also have a midfield danger man of their own. Former Manchester United midfielder Zoran Tosic has been a loyal player of the national side making almost 80 International caps so far. The CSKA Moscow winger, is a very speedy player, and isn't afraid of taking on the full backs. The Irish full-backs have yet to be selected, but whoever they are, they will have to be on guard for the threat that Tosic can cause.

Team news

The Boys in Green have a few key players doubtful for the game in Belgrade, including the likes of James McCarthy and John O'Shea. McCarthy missed the win over Oman in the week due to a groin injury, which also kept him out of Everton's league game over Stoke City

O'Shea joined up with the national team training earlier in the week and could return to the defence. McCarthy's Everton teammate Seamus Coleman, who has yet to represent the Toffee's this season also returned to training and could also feature against Serbia.

On the suspension front, Blackburn Rovers defender, Shane Duffy will miss out after his red card in the Euro defeat to France in June. However, good news for O'Neil and his side is that Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, and Manchester City full-back Aleksandar Kolorov are also absent through suspension.