WORLD CUP : Last match for Serbia-Montenegro as a team
Billerbeck: Serbia and Montenegro’s game against Ivory Coast on Wednesday will mark the last time the “Hey Slavs!” Yugoslav anthem is played at a soccer stadium. And it will be the final occasion the country’s blue, white and red flag will fly above a sporting venue.
Maybe, in terms of soccer, that’s a good thing.
“After the match on Wednesday, we are putting a full stop,” midfielder Dejan Stankovic said on Monday. “We are starting with a new country, a new team, a new flag, a new anthem and hopefully better results.”
The game in Munich has no meaning because both Serbia-Montenegro and Ivory Coast have been eliminated from the World Cup, with Argentina and the Netherlands already advancing from Group C.
But it will go down in history as the last match for Serbia-Montenegro, the final vestige of old Yugoslavia. The country formally split last month when Montenegro voted for independence.
As the successor state, Serbia will keep the FIFA membership. Montenegro, already applying for a seat with soccer’s governing body, hopes to take part in qualifying for the next World Cup.
Serbia-Montenegro’s team spokesman Aleksandar Boskovic said that Serbia will play its first match as a single country in a friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague on August 16. “From the golden city of Prague, we hope to start our golden future,” Boskovic said.
Angola v Iran
FRIEDRICHSHAFEN: Angola still has a chance at the second round. Iran just wants to go home with their pride intact. Wednesday’s game in Leipzig offers something for both sides, even if Angola’s something is more meaningful.
Despite not having scored in their first two games, the Black Antelopes from southwest Africa have an opportunity to claim second place in the World Cup’s Group D and advance to the second round. It will require a victory over Iran on Wednesday in Leipzig, a victory by Portugal over Mexico and then hope the goal difference is in their favour.
Angola, which rode goalkeeper Joao Ricardo’s performance to a 0-0 draw against Mexico, enters the match with a minus-1; the Mexicans have a plus-two.
Having lost 3-1 to Mexico and 2-0 to Portugal, Iran already has plans to return home after a third unsuccessful attempt to reach the knockout stages.
“We want to go out with a final victory,” Iran’s embattled coach Branko Ivankovic said. “We understand that Angola is still hoping to qualify for the next phase, but we are looking for a dignified exit from the tournament.” Iran has played eight matches at the World Cup and won only once - 2-1 over the United States in a politically charged match eight years ago.
Portugal v Mexico
GELSENKIRCHEN: Mexico’s coach Ricardo Lavolpe needs all the firepower he can muster for a World Cup group finale against Portugal.
But he’s already lost his top striker for the match on Wednesday. Having already assured Portugal’s advancement to the next round, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari faces a different predicament: spare some of his key players for later in the tournament, or field his best team in a bid to secure top spot in Group D.
Jared Borgetti, whose 38 career international goals is the most in Mexican history, will sit out the match with a torn left thigh muscle. The 33-year-old Bolton striker was hurt during Mexico’s 3-1 win over Iran on June 11 and missed Friday’s goalless draw with Angola on Friday.
To be sure of their place in the round of 16, the Mexicans have to win or draw against Portugal, who reached the second phase for the first time in 40 years.
Portugal leads the group with six points. It clinched a place in the second round with a 2-0 victory over Iran and an unimpressive opening win over the surprising Angolans. Mexico is second with four points, three better than Angola.