Serbia news

Mihajlovic fearing the worst

October 23, 2012
By ESPN staff

Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has said he is fearful that the senior national team could face heavy punishment in light of the recent racial abuse allegations during the Under-21 play-off against England.

Sinisa Mihajlovic
PA PhotosSinisa Mihajlovic has expressed concern as to the potential punishment Serbia could face

• FA urges zero tolerance

Both the English and Serbian Under-21 teams have been charged by UEFA following the ugly scenes at the end of England's victory in Krusevac, with Danny Rose claiming to have been racially abused throughout the encounter.

Given that Serbia have been involved in other troubling incidents in recent times - notably, their Euro 2012 qualifier in Italy in 2010 was abandoned after seven minutes due to hooliganism - there have been calls for country to be handed a severe punishment. Mihajlovic fears UEFA could make an example of them.

"That is a much more serious problem than we can imagine," he told Sportski Zurnal. "Frankly, I'm not an optimist on this matter. The big fish always eats the small fish and the English are bigger than us.

"We didn't need what happened in Krusevac, like the managers fighting on the pitch. They had to pull the kids apart. It's a difficult situation. I don't expect anything good. It can all have a bad effect on the senior team."

Regardless of the outcome, Mihajlovic's future is a matter of debate in Serbia. The team have taken four points from their opening four games in qualification for the World Cup and are already six points behind Group A leaders Belgium and Croatia.

He was publicly critical of Branislav Ivanovic, the captain, and Aleksandar Kolarov for their performances in the recent 3-0 defeat at home to Belgium and he dropped the Chelsea defender for the 1-0 defeat in Macedonia that followed.

In an interview with the Blic newspaper, Mihajlovic explained: "I shall tell you the truth. I shall never criticise someone for making the wrong pass or not scoring a goal, but I shall criticise if a player does not do what I have requested from him to do.

"What I request from Ivanovic and Kolarov is not that we win but that we do not lose. In the last 30 minutes with Belgium, we did not look like a team. In a team that I lead, everyone has to know what to do, regardless of the result."

Pressed on his decision to publicly criticise the duo, he added: "You do not know the whole story. I talked with them ten times more than with any other player after Sweden and France because they are leaders of our team. They are my extended hand on the pitch.

"I told Ivanovic then that he cannot play as he wants but as I say. I talked to both of them after the match with Belgium and Kolarov understood what I was saying. Ivanovic was nervous during that talk. He has not accepted my remarks as a constructive criticism but took them personally. That is why he was not in the team from the beginning of the match in Skopje."

Mihajlovic says he will not walk away from the job. "In my vocabulary there is no word 'resignation' and I shall certainly not submit it," he said.