Belfast Telegraph

Serbia v Northern Ireland: Stankovic expects men in green to show their mettle

By Vladimir Novak

Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic has stressed that patience will be the key to his side getting the better of Northern Ireland.

The Inter Milan midfielder, who has been capped 95 times in the various incarnations of the Balkan state, has done his homework ahead of this evening’s clash in Belgrade.

“We watched and analyzed their game against Slovenia. Northern Ireland play a very disciplined and responsible style,” he explained.

“They defend very well and they don’t change their way of playing, no matter if it’s the fifth or the 95th minute. We will need a lot of patience to break their defensive wall.

“But we have no choice. We need six points from the upcoming two games and only with six points we are back in the race.”

The build-up to the game has been dominated by Uefa’s decision to play the match at the Red Star Stadium behind closed doors, but Stankovic is determined to silence the 265 travelling Northern Ireland fans.

“I’ve played games in front of empty stands and it can affect you, especially when it’s a home game, where the support from the fans always means a lot,” he admitted.

“But, on the other hand, when the game is in full flow you just concentrate and try to switch off no matter if there are 50,000 or zero fans.

“I played four times with Inter in an empty San Siro. I know that the rules allow around 200 guests for the away team. Even if the Northern Ireland fans will be loud, it’s up to us to keep them quiet.”

“Naturally, it would be great if we would score an early goal. It could change things, because in that case they would have to open up. They would also have to try to do something up front. In that case, the more space we have, the better we are.”

Belfast Telegraph


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