Would Yugoslavia be able to compete with Europe's top nations today?
Football in Europe is absolutely massive and one of the biggest nations when it came to the beautiful game once were Yugoslavia. Some of you won't remember them competing in major tournaments but they used to regularly go deep in both the World Cup (2x 4th placed finishes) and European Championships (2x runners-up), but now they cease to exist. Yugoslavia broke up back in 1992 and split up into 7 countries - Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia and Kosovo. This shows just how big a country it used to be and they've produced some magnificent footballers over the years, with Croatia in particular excelling in recent years.
Their run to the 2018 World Cup final was their best ever performance at a major tournament and there's exciting times ahead for all of the former Yugoslavia nations as a whole, as the majority of them possess some top players. With it currently being the international break and attention shifting to football around the continent courtesy of the UEFA Nations League it got us thinking - who would feature for Yugoslavia today and just how well would they perform at major tournaments? Well below we've created an XI from the 7 nations which we think looks very strong on paper - have a look and tweet your thoughts into us @FootyAccums!
Between the sticks - Jan Oblak
National Team: Slovenia
Yugoslavia would be blessed with some fantastic options for this position, with Croatia's Danijel Subasic a very good goalkeeper. But you simply cannot look past Slovenia international Jan Oblak, who's a real contender for being the best keeper in the world. He may be young in goalkeeping terms at the age of just 25 but he has an enormous reputation in the game already, with him excelling in Diego Simeone's stubborn Atletico Madrid side. He's been one of the main foundations behind their success over the last few seasons and his stats are simply outrageous, with him keeping mean clean sheets than goals conceded since he joined the club in 2014. A truly world class player and should he ever leave Madrid he would cost a world record fee for a goalkeeper.
At the back - Sime Vrsaljko, Stefan Savic, Dejan Lovren, Aleksandar Kolarov
National Team: Croatia
There's been some magnificent right-backs over the years that would've been strong contenders for our side, with the likes of Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia) and Darijo Srna (Croatia) absolute legends for their respective nations. They may not be around now but we still have a very good player to make up the first part of our defence, in the form of Inter Milan and Croatia right-back Sime Vrsaljko. Like Oblak, he's another man who's worked under Diego Simeone at club level with Atletico Madrid and he's reaped the rewards - with him the epitome of the modern day full back. He can defend, carry the ball and contribute to goals - he can do it all. He was an important figure in Croatia's run to the final of the 2018 World Cup and with him now at the age of 26 he's only going to improve with his best years ahead of him.
National Team: Montenegro
The first part of our centre-back partnership comes in the form Montenegro defender Stefan Savic. Another man who's played for Atletico Madrid, Savic recovered from a tough start to his career with Manchester City to become one of the most consistent defenders in Europe. He formed a fantastic understanding with Oblak and Diego Godin for his club side, resulting in one of the meanest defences in world football. For the national team he hasn't enjoyed as much success, with Montenegro yet to qualify for a major tournament since breaking away but no one can doubt what an important player Savic is for them.
National Team: Croatia
Next up is a man a lot of you know very well, Liverpool & Croatia defender Dejan Lovren. It's fair to say that he's a figure that splits opinion in the football world, on his day he can be very good but particularly at club level we've seen his game littered with mistakes - all of this despite him claiming 'he's one of the best defenders in the world'. This has led to him getting an awful lot of stick and he's someone England fans in particular love to wind up, especially after getting revenge against Croatia on Sunday at Wembley. But for our Yugoslavia side we think he's a good option and he would slot in nicely in our back four - it also helps Oblak is there to save him!
National Team: Serbia
The final part of our back four comes in the form of Serbia skipper Aleksandar Kolarov, who's a key man for both club and country. The 33 year-old will be familiar to followers of both the Premier League and Serie A from his time with Manchester City, Lazio and Roma - with him making a name for himself after scoring some sublime goals. Kolarov's left foot is up there with the best in Europe and it's seen him score some absolute belters from distance over the years - with his ability from dead ball situations a massive weapon in his armoury.
In the middle - Nemanja Matic, Miralem Pjanic, Luka Modric
National Team: Serbia
Choosing the man to anchor our midfield was a tough one, with Marcelo Brozovic of Croatia a strong contender but we ended up going for Serbia international Nemanja Matic. There's no doubt that on his day the 30 year-old is amongst the best holding players in European football, with his ability to break up the play, win possesion, find that killer pass and even score the odd screamer making him a managers dream. Matic may not get the praise that some of his teammates do at international and club level but the selfless role he plays allows other to express himself, so he'd definitely be one of the first names on the team sheet in any Yugslovia XI.
National Team: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Just ahead of Matic on the pitch we've gone for Bosnia-Herzegovina playmaker Miralem Pjanic, who over the last few seasons has established himself as one of Europe's finest midfielders. Playing his club football for Juventus, he's excelled since making the move to Turin and he's played an important part in their domestic dominance which has seen them win a record 7 successive Scudetto's. Pjanic's technical ability and composure in intense situations makes him such a big asset for any team and playing with him must be a dream for attacking players as he can pick you out from pretty much anywhere on the pitch. Similar to Kolarov, he can also hit a fantastic free-kick which leads to him registering plenty of assists.
National Team: Croatia
The star man in our midfield three comes in the form of Ballon d'Or favourite and 4 times Champions League winner, Luka Modric. The Croatia skipper may be the wrong side of 30 (33) but he's playing arguably the best football of his career, inspiring both his club and country to new heights. This year has been fantastic for him but he'll still be devastated after missing out winning the World Cup earlier this summer, but the way that Modric inspired Croatia to their first ever final is something that will go down in their history. He may be small in stature, but his presence on the football pitch and technical ability makes him such a threat and when he finally does retire from the national team his absence will hit them ridiculously hard - what a player.
Attack - Ante Rebic, Edin Dzeko, Ivan Perisic
National Team: Croatia
Still relatively inexperienced at international but in Ante Rebic Croatia certainly have someone who can cause some serious damage. The 25 year-old has endured something of a stop-start career but over the last couple of seasons he's really come alive, excelling in the Bundesliga for the prolific Eintracht Frankfurt. He's slightly unorthodox for a winger, coming in at 6 foot 1 which makes him a real weapon from both set pieces and long balls into the channels. And despite being so tall he's still outrageously quick, as many sides discovered first hand at the World Cup this summer. Rebic is tipped by many to make a big money move in the near future so he's definitely one to look out for as he continues his rise to prominence for both club and country.
National Team: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Selecting the man to spearhead our attack was a real no brainer for us, with Roma & Bosnia-Herzegovina man Edin Dzeko by far the leading candidate. Andrej Kramaric and Aleksandar Mitrovic are both decent strikers but the pair of them can't compete with Dzeko, who's proven himself as one of the most prolific and clinical finishers in Europe over the last few seasons. He's hit 20 or more goals for his club sides in 3 of the last 5 seasons and he's brought that level of performance through to the national team - with him now Bosnia-Herzegovina's all-time record scorer with 55 strikes to his name, along with being their most capped player (99). Dzeko is the ideal man to lead the line and with Pjanic & Modric providing the ammunition from midfield, there'd be plenty of goals.
National Team: Croatia
The final member of our team and another one who is an elite performer, Ivan Perisic. Comfortable out on either flank and either foot, Perisic is a full-backs nightmare who has the potential to be a match winner in any game. He's excelled for many years now for both Croatia & his club side Inter Milan and it is a bit of a surprise that he's never made a mega money move to one of European footballs elite clubs (no disrespect to Inter). He was fantastic at the World Cup this summer and with Inter back in the Champions League he's know showcasing exactly what he has to offer on the biggest stage of them all.
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