Serbia's first World Cup match, a subdued event, both off and on the field

09:18, June 14, 2010      

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Perhaps the sweltering heat kept Belgrade residents from crowding the downtown bars and patios along the central pedestrian zone to take in the mid-afternoon World Cup opener against Ghana on Sunday.

Despite pockets of avid, youthful supporters, the downtown felt it had been abandoned. Even with weeks and months of anticipation, the atmosphere in the nation's capital during Serbia's first World Cup match was a surprisingly subdued affair.

In other words, the fans back home watched the game with the same level of enthusiasm that their team displayed during their 1-0 loss to Ghana, on Asamoah Gyan' s penalty shot in the 84th minute.

Deep with talent and headed by coach Radomir Antic, the disciplinarian and architect largely credited with bringing the team to the World Cup, the Serbian 'white eagles' were out-hustled by the fleet-footed and energetic Ghanian team.

In many respects, although this was first match in Group D, it was seen as the battle for second place in the group that Germany is expected to dominate and includes Australia. Serbia entered the competition as one of its potential 'dark horses' .

Although both teams had their chances to score, the match eventually revolved around two key penalties, both to the Serbian side. A collective groan went through the crowd outside the 'Russian Czar' in downtown Belgrade when at the 74th minute Aleksandar Lukovic was red-carded for bringing down Gyan, for his second offense.

Ironically, although reduced to 10 players at that point, the Serbian side seemed invigorated and five minutes later nearly scored on a header from Nemanja Vidic.

The second and decisive penalty occured when Zdravko Kuzmanovic was charged with 'handballing'. Ghana converted the opportunity in front of the Serbian goal.

"We are all disappointed. The game was poor, our players were too relaxed. I thought at the very least we would get one point, with a tie. We are totally disappointed," said Novak, a young Belgrader, at the end of the game.

"We lost because of Kuzmanovic' s hand, something he shouldn' t have permitted himself to do. I am agitated but I will not go and smash something...I' m going for a run to get rid of my nervous energy," said Slobodan.

Andjelina stated that "this was a catastrophy. I didn' t expect our side to win, but I didn' t expect Ghana to win either."

When asked about Serbia' s chances against Germany, the strongest contender in the Group, Katerina provided a view balanced portions of realism and optimism, "Our maximum would be 0-0 or 1-1, one point. But hope dies last. We will get through to the next stage."

Special Report: World Cup 2010


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