Decembar 2021

Football » Fudbal | 23 Direct qualification for the 2022 World Cup is an incredible achievement, particularly considering that this is practically the same teamthat got drenched at Belgrade’s “Marakana” last year, whenwe couldn’t even beat aweak Scotland team, even after penalties, to secure a place at theEuropeanChampionships. Back thenwewere ready to foreverwriteoff Serbian football and turn to the sports in which we’re really among the best on the planet – water poSE R B I A AT T HE 202 2 WOR L D CUP Buckle up, we’re flying toQatar! Serbia’s top footballers, with the legendary Piksi at the helm, managed to do something that we haven’t achieved for more than 30 years, and never under the country’s current name: they beat the great Portugal in themiddle of Lisbon and thus qualified for the upcoming 2022 FIFAWorldCup lo, volleyball, basketball, tennis... And while we wept over our football fate, Dragan Stojković ‘happened’ to us. It was in March that the legendary Piksi accepted the job that no one wanted, the job of raising the grounded “Eagles” toheavenlyheights. Stojković succeeded inwhat probablynoone but him believed was possible. As soon as he took on the job, he said that hewould lead Serbia toQatar. At the time, that just sounded like the bold claim of a man who’d taken on an excessively difficult duty and was attempting to lift his own self-confidence. Elevate spoke with Piksi back in March, when he was first appointed head coach of the national team. And prior to the start of the interview, he stated casually, matter-of-factly, that he had no intention of harassing the players, of searching for them around the hotels and checking to make sure they’re sleeping... “They’re grownmen and there’s no reason for me to change them or not to trust them. Some like to talk to their wives or see their children before a match. Why would anyone ban that? I’m not some tyrant. Trust must exist between us. If I achieve that, I’ve done a great part of the job,” Stojković told us at the time. And when, in the same interview, we asked him whether Serbia will make it toQatar, he paused for a few seconds before answering: “There’s no capitulation.The goal is to get to Qatar. How? I don’t know, but that’s the goal. I don’t like to lose and I’mnot someonewho gives up easily”. Hemight not have known how back then, but he does now. And he knew it even before the match against Portugal, whenhewas asked whether possibly qualifying for the World Cup would be his greatest coaching success. He answered as if shot froma cannon: “What, bre, do you mean possible, bre?! We must go toQatar, bre!” And this “bre” isn’t coincidental... AsMomoKapor noted long ago, “it serves to express approval and admiration, and at the same time disapproval and regret; it serves for wonderment, for an invitation and a warning, for surprise, for exhortation, encouragement, emboldening and pleading. We’re all in that little ‘bre’, with all our vices and virtues – it is seemingly our essence.” The players accepted that there was no mere possibility, ‘bre’, and played like there was no tomorrow. Good-as-standard captain Dušan Tadić was joined by Aleksandar Mitrović, and their goals stamped our World Cup passport. Mitrović, aka Mitrogoal, first “plucked up our spirits” at the start against the Irish (3:2), and then brought bitterness to the lives of the Portuguese, including Cristiano Ronaldo, twice! Christian cried in Belgrade first, only to fall to his knees in Lisbon. What next? Training for the World Cup in Qatar, to be played next year from 21st November to 18th December. We will only receive the full list of all passengers heading to the World Cup at the end of March, when qualifications and play-offs conclude around the planet. The World Cup draw has been scheduled for 1st April, andwe know that we’ll be there. And we don’t care if our appetite has grown by then. With Piksi, Serbia can reach the final, bre! FOTO: / Pedro Fiuza /Zuma Press FOTO: / Pedro Fiuza /Zuma Press