Noel King tells Republic Under-21s to prove themselves against Serbia
Noel King has challenged the Republic of Ireland Under-21s to prove themselves capable of competing with the best when they face Serbia in their final European Championship qualifiers.
The Republic's hopes of making the finals have long gone after a run of four successive defeats which was finally brought to an end by Friday night's 2-0 home victory over Slovenia.
However, they bring down the curtain on the campaign with home and away fixtures against Serbia starting in Novi Sad on Tuesday evening, when they will face a side which could include several players from the team which won the World Under-20s title in New Zealand last year.
Manager King said: "Serbia are World Under-20s champions and have a super group of players in the 1994 and 1995-born age bracket.
"They represent a huge challenge. Serbian football is on the up. They are at the bar that you judge yourself against these days - Serbia, Germany and that quality of nations.
"We'll try to win the game as we always do. We have our strategy and will prepare for the game in the right manner and see where that takes us."
The Serbia side which drew 1-1 with Group 2 leaders Italy on Friday featured nine members of that Under-20s squad.
However, King was buoyed by his team's performance against Slovenia after seeing them strike twice at the death to snatch the win.
He will be without Preston midfielder Alan Browne through suspension, but will welcome back Fulham defender Sean Kavanagh and Blackburn midfielder Darragh Lenihan from bans and Bristol City winger Callum O'Dowda from his involvement with the senior squad.