We take a look at who could be the game-changers as Serbia go head to head against Switzerland in their second Group E match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Serbia will look to register their second victory of the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they face off against fellow European nation Switzerland at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Friday.
Having gotten off to a winning start, with a 1-0 triumph over Costa Rica last weekend, the Eagles sit atop the Group E standings and will be hoping to bag three points against Switzerland and book a spot in the next round of the competition.
Switzerland, on the other hand, managed to hold Brazil to a 1-1 draw in their opening fixture, courtesy of a second-half equalizer from Steven Zuber. And they will be keen on getting off the mark against the Serbians, to boost their hopes of earning a round of 16 berth.
And ahead of what will be a crucial match for both the teams, here at The Hard Tackle, we take a look at three players who could prove to be the difference makers on Friday.
Arguably the most talented player in the Switzerland squad, 26-year old Xherdan Shaqiri is also someone who divides opinions in plenty. From being unstoppable in one game, the Stoke City winger can suddenly disappear in the subsequent games. And this element of inconsistency has held him back from establishing himself as a truly world-class talent.
Shaqiri is coming on the back of a decent campaign for Stoke in the Premier League, despite the fact that his team ended up getting relegated. He finished the 2017/18 season with 8 goals and 7 assists in 36 appearances and this has led to strong interest from last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists Liverpool. A series of strong performances in Russia could see the Reds act on their interest.
With 71 international caps, in which he has bagged 20 goals, Shaqiri is one of the most experienced players in Vladimir Petkovic’s 23-man squad in Russia. While he did not have the best of games against Brazil last time out, he still chipped in with the crucial assist for Zuber’s equalizer. With his quality and natural abilities, he can prove to be quite a handful for Serbia’s defence on Friday.
Serbia’s captain was the hero for his side against the Costa Ricans last weekend, netting a sublime free-kick to fire his team to a victory. And he will once again be an important cog in the wheel for Mladen Krstajic’s side, if they are to come out on top at the Kaliningrad.
His immaculate set-piece delivery and his attacking intent from the left-back slot will once again come in handy no doubt, but Kolarov will also be need to wary about going up against the dangerous Shaqiri. The 26-year old Swiss attacker possesses blistering pace and has the penchant for scoring spectacular goals, which makes him dangerous and troublesome to deal with.
And the 32-year old Kolarov will need to bring all his experience to the table, if he wants to successfully negate the threat of Shaqiri from the flanks. That might mean, he would have to reign in his natural attacking instincts when he sets out to make his 78th international appearance for the Eagles on Friday.
The 29-year old Manchester United star is the cornerstone of this Serbian side and adds a sense of defensive security with his presence in the middle of the park for the Eagles.
A reliable presence in the centre, Matic is as diligent as they come, and goes about his business of thwarting opposition and breaking up play with minimum fuss. He also acts as an effective link between the two halves of the pitch for Serbia with his distribution, making him an integral part of this team.
Matic had a solid game against Costa Rica last weekend, as he recorded a brilliant 92% pass success-rate and made important interceptions and tackles, playing his part in thwarting Los Ticos. And the 41-time capped defensive midfielder’s exceptional work rate and the ability to launch attacks with precise passes will once again be key on Friday against Switzerland.