Dzeko and Modric feature in combined Yugoslavia squad
There is an argument, that if Yugoslavia had stayed together as one nation, their football team would currently be one of the best in the World, when considering players from countries like Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia.
With England set to take on the latter in their next Euro 2016 qualifier, a match they are odds-on at 3/10 with Coral to win, we have decided to take a look at the squad the Three Lions would be facing if it was Yugoslavia instead.
Since the turn of the century, the top competitions across Europe, including the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga, have recruited more and more heavily from the Balkan region, which has produced a surprising amount of talent.
So, Coral decided to take a look at what the 23-man Yugoslav squad could look like if they were going to a World Cup or European Championship right now.
GOALKEEPER: ASMIR BEGOVIC (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Stoke City’s custodian has been linked with a host of top clubs over the years, though the timing has never quite been right. Without a doubt, one of the best number ones in the Premier League, and deserves his place here.
RIGHT BACK: DARIJO SRNA (CROATIA)
One of the best players to never play in a top European league; though, even at the age of 32, he is still world class. Known for his high energy approach, crossing ability and appetite to go past people, the Shakhtar Donetsk and Vetreni captain is like a Croatian Cafu.
CENTRE BACK: BRANISLAV IVANOVIC (SERBIA)
Had Nemanja Vidic not announced his international retirement, there would have been a case to pick him in the middle and push Ivanovic out to right back. Equally adept in the middle, the Chelsea man has been a mainstay in the Blues team, and is one of their most consistent performers.
CENTRE BACK: DEJAN LOVREN (CROATIA)
The 25-year-old showcased his quality at Southampton last season but, like everyone at Liverpool, seems to be having teething problems. However, the former Lyon defender is a class act and one of the first names in a star-studded Croatia line-up.
LEFT BACK: ALEKSANDAR KOLAROV (SERBIA)
Has often been preferred to Frenchman Gael Clichy at Manchester City and is renowned for having a fantastic left foot and relentless work rate. He makes the first XI without too much competition, though deserves his place in the side.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: NEMANJA MATIC (SERBIA)
Arguably one of the most effective Chelsea signings of the past couple of years, the Blues, odds-on at 1/6 to win the Premier League, were missing someone of his presence until he moved to the club. Destructive in the tackle and tidy on the ball, with an innate ability to anticipate the pattern of play, he is one of the best players in his position in the world.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: LUKA MODRIC (CROATIA)
This guy is world class. Currently playing for Real Madrid, he seems to give their superstar midfield balanced. By a country mile, he was the best player in a Spurs team that included a young Gareth Bale, plus Rafael van der Vaart, and in attack mode is at least two moves ahead of the game.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: IVAN RAKITIC (CROATIA)
Since switching to Barcelona, the former Sevilla man has been a revelation in new boss Luis Enrique’s revolution of a side that has dominated Europe in the latter half of last decade. An eye for a pass and an assist, Rakitic is likely to become the immediate heir to Xavi and has bundles of potential.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: MIRALEM PJANIC (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Roma’s attacking midfielder has been a vital part in the club’s meteoric rise. The 24-year-old has been described as “an old fashioned playmaker with huge technical qualities”, and is lethal in a dead ball situation. Known for his creativity, Pjanic can unlock the meanest defences.
STRIKER: EDIN DZEKO (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Joining fellow Manchester City colleague Kolarov, is Dzeko, who has 162 domestic career goals in 342 appearances. The 28-year-old is a handful, and has demonstrated throughout his career that he can score in a variety of ways. A number of times he has been linked with a move away from the Etihad, though with his record this would be folly for City.
STRIKER: STEVAN JOVETIC (MONTENEGRO)
The only Montenegrin player in the starting XI, it makes sense to dovetail him with domestic teammate Dzeko, in a traditional ‘little and large’ partnership. While in Serie A, playing for Fiorentina, Jovetic netted 35 goals in 116 appearances, laying on 23 assists. At City he has shown his ability to score a variety of goals and likes to drift between the lines.
GOALKEEPER: SAMIR HANDANOVIC (SLOVENIA)
The 30-year-old Inter Milan keeper is worthy choice for the number one jersey, though provides quality backup. In 362 domestic appearances he has only conceded 117 goals.
CENTRE BACK: MATIJA NASTASIC (SERBIA)
One for the future; the 21-year-old Man City defender has the talent to become a very good player. He makes a more than adequate substitute.
CENTRE/RIGHT/LEFT BACK: VEDRAN CORLUKA (CROATIA)
Makes the bench due to his versatility across the backline, and the former Man City and Spurs player now plies his trade in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow. At 28, he still has a number of years ahead of him.
RIGHT BACK: SIME VRSALJKO (CROATIA)
Starting his career at Dinamo Zagreb, before switching to Genoa in 2013, the 22-year-old earned a move to Sassuolo following his World Cup exploits for Croatia. He has the talent to be every bit as good as compatriot Srna, and is an ideal understudy.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: MOHAMED BESIC (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Bosnia and Herzegovina’S 22-year-old secured a summer switch to Everton, after his neat performances at the World Cup, and is an ideal like-for-like replacement for Matic.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER/FORWARD: ADEM LJAJIC (SERBIA)
Roma’s 23-year-old is a tricky attacker, whose runs from deep cause problems for opponents. He has scored 24 goals in 115 Serie A appearances, contributing 21 assists and would be an ideal replacement for Pjanic.
WINGER: LAZAR MARKOVIC (SERBIA)
Has been described as the next Patrick Berger at Liverpool, for his looks and footballing potential. The Serbian international has exceptional acceleration, and the 20-year-old has the ability to go as far as he wants.
CENTRE FORWARD: MARIO MANDZUKIC (CROATIA)
Some may prefer the prolific Croatian in the starting XI, though in terms of match winning ability Dzeko got the nod. The 28-year-old has scored 131 goals in 282 domestic appearances, and now, often scores every time he plays.
GOALKEEPER: JAN OBLAK (SLOVENIA)
The 21-year-old was bought by Atletico Madrid from Benfica to replace Thibaut Courtois, after the Belgian’s three-year loan spell. Unfortunately, he has Handanovic ahead of him in the Slovenian national team, otherwise he would be a shoe-in.
CENTRE BACK: STEFAN SAVIC (MONTENEGRO)
Sent back to Serie A after a one-year stint at Man City, the 23-year-old Montenegrin defender is now playing for Fiorentina, and is more than good enough to have a place in the squad.
WINGER: ADNAN JANUZAJ (ALBANIA)
Although born in Brussels, the 19-year-old Manchester United winger is from Albanian descent and only recently opted to play for Belgium. However, it could have been a different story and he would offer a Yugoslavia squad an alternative option.
WINGER: DUSAN TADIC (SERBIA)
One of Southampton’s summer signings, the 25-year-old has demonstrated how he can quickly and intelligently form a telepathic on-field relationship with other players, and rounds off this squad of 23.