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Thursday, June 15, 2006
Tense Serb coach rounds on scornful media

BILLERBECK, Germany, June 15 (Reuters) - A nervous-looking Serbia and Montenegro coach Ilija Petkovic has criticised the media for putting his team under pressure ahead of the crunch Group C match against Argentina in Gelsenkirchen on Friday.

'Some of the media pouring scorn on us every day would not even be here if we hadn't qualified for the World Cup finals,' he told a news conference on Thursday.

'I will take criticism where and when it's due but we will not tolerate fabrications,' he said, denying allegations that midfielder Dejan Stankovic and striker Danijel Ljuboja came to blows at training on Wednesday.

'We exchanged innocuous words and that's all there is to it. The report that we had a fight is complete nonsense and we even had breakfast together,' Ljuboja said.

But with injured centre back Nemanja Vidic ruled out of the tournament and the pressure of needing to avoid defeat by the Argentines after a 1-0 opening loss to Netherlands, pressure has crept into the Serbian camp.

Petkovic again declined to name the starting lineup and much of his pre-tournament optimism seems to have been deflated by the poor start, combined with Vidic's injury and a nepotism row that saw his son leave the squad before the finals kicked off.

'It's not the end of the world if lose to Argentina. We will be up against a giant and everyone must remember that we did well to qualify in the first place,' said Petkovic.

Few changes are expected to the team that lost tamely to the Dutch and Petkovic, who has few options, hinted that he would stick to his defensive style.

'The utmost priority is to keep a clean sheet and obviously we would like to score if we can. Chances against opponents like ours come few and far between,' he said.

Igor Duljaj seems certain to be at right back with Goran Gavrancic moving into central defence to cover for Vidic while Nenad Djordjevic, who was taken apart by Arjen Robben against Netherlands, should make way for lively winger Ognjen Koroman.

Skipper Savo Milosevic will make his 100th international appearance if selected instead of towering striker Nikola Zigic, whose aerial strength would appear to be Serbia's best chance against a more talented Argentina.

'I'm honoured to have been there 99 times for my country and I can promise we'll play our hearts out to get a result against the Argentines no matter who's on the pitch,' said Milosevic.




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