May 24, 2018 / 1:53 PM / 3 months ago

Krstajic injects youth into Serbia's World Cup squad

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic named several uncapped prospects in his provisional 27-man World Cup squad on Thursday at the expense of stalwarts who failed to impress in friendlies after they qualified for the 32-nation tournament.

Serbia head coach Mladen Krstajic speaks during a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Defenders Nikola Milenkovic and Milan Rodic have been preferred to full backs Dusan Basta and Ivan Obradovic, while 20-year-old striker Luka Jovic earned his spot after an impressive season at German Cup winners Eintracht Frankfurt on loan from Benfica.

Red Star Belgrade’s 22-year-old winger Nemanja Radonjic, who made his debut in a friendly against South Korea in November, is one of three home-based players alongside Rodic and first-choice goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

Center back Matija Nastasic is also in contention despite facing a race against time to recover from a long-term knee injury for the June 14-July 15 tournament in Russia.

“Nastasic is a key defender and we are hopeful that he will be fit,” Krstajic told a news conference.

“He will have a medical on Saturday and after that we will know whether he can make the final cut or not.

“There are no sour grapes as personal egos have taken a back seat in order to put together the best squad and I am confident this group of players can make an impact in Russia.”

The Serbians, who qualified for their first major tournament since the 2010 World Cup, will play warm-up matches in the Austrian city of Graz against Chile on June 4 and Bolivia five days later.

They start their World Cup Group E campaign against Costa Rica in Samara on June 17 followed by games against Switzerland in Kaliningrad on June 22 and Brazil in Moscow on June 27.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar), Aleksandar Jovanovic (Aarhus).

Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma), Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit St. Petersburg), Dusko Tosic (Guangzhou R&F), Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade), Uros Spajic (Krasnodar), Matija Nastasic (Schalke 04), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina).

Midfielders: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Marko Grujic (Liverpool), Adem Ljajic (Torino), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Mijat Gacinovic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Filip Kostic (Hamburg SV), Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica), Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade), Nemanja Maksimovic (Valencia).

Strikers: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK Salonika), Luka Jovic (Benfica).

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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