What Would Yugoslavia’s Line-up Look Like at the World Cup?

Tom Lever

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History of Yugoslavia's National Team

At the first World Cup In 1930, Yugoslavia was one of four European nations to compete in the tournament, alongside Belgium, France, and Romania. They made it to the semi-finals, yet they were defeated 6-1 by host nation Uruguay.

Yugoslavia did have a somewhat dominant spell in international football during the 1960’s, making the 1962 World Cup semi-final and reaching two European Championship finals in 1960 and 1968. However, they were unable to win any silverware, falling short on each occasion.

The Yugoslavian national team began in 1920 and competed internationally until 1992. The state is now divided into the following independent nations: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Their last tournament as Yugoslavia was the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where they reached the quarter-final stages.

If Yugoslavia was to compete at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, what would their starting XI look like?

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GK: Jan Oblak – Slovenia

Jan Oblak has proved to be one of the best goalkeepers in world football ever since he joined Atletico Madrid in 2014 from Benfica. The Slovenian international now captains both his club and country, racking up 279 appearances for the Spanish giants and 52 for Slovenia.

Unbelievable shot-stopping ability, cat-like reflexes and an abundance of experience at the highest level, means that Oblak would be guaranteed a place in the starting side!

RWB/RM: Ivan Perisic – Croatia

Ivan Perisic has shown that he can compete across Europe’s elite leagues for many seasons now. The two-footed wide man is extremely versatile and we have seen him play in many positions for Spurs this season alone, being deployed on either side as a wing-back and even as a second striker to Harry Kane.

At the 2018 World Cup, Perisic was in fine form. He accumulated three goals and one assist in seven games, which took Croatia to the final where they were eventually beaten by France. Perisic did score in the final, however, proving he can be a huge goal threat in big games.

RCB: Amir Rrahmani – Kosovo

Napoli have had an incredible start to the season and so has Kosovo international Rrahmani. So far this season in all competitions, he is unbeaten in 13 starts for club and country. A formidable partnership was formed alongside Min-Jae Kim for Napoli, which allowed Spalletti’s side to attack with fluidity.

Unfortunately, Rrahmani picked up an injury against Cremonese in October and hasn’t featured since. However, if he was injury free, the RCB spot would be his.

CB: Stefan Savic – Montenegro

The second Atletico Madrid player in my Yugoslavian starting XI, is the vastly experienced Stefan Savic. Throughout his career, the 31-year-old is known to be an aggressive defender who likes to assert his physicality on opposition attackers.

The ex-Manchester City and Fiorentina defender would provide a good balance to the side, given his ability to defend on the front foot and in a low block. Nikola Milenkovic from Serbia could have replaced Savic, but the experience is vital in international tournaments!

LCB: Josko Gvardiol – Croatia

Josko Gvardiol of German outfit RB Leipzig is a heavily sought-after prospect due to his unique profile. The left-footed Croatian ticks almost every box for a defender in the modern game. Ball playing ability, pace and versatility are just a few attributes that make him stand out, he is also just 20 years old which is the youngest in this starting XI.

Gvardiol would fit perfectly in the LCB role as his one-on-one defending is outstanding which massively helps with transitions.

LWB/LM – Filip Kostic – Serbia

The Juventus wing-back has mastered the art of creativity over the last few years. The Serbian made his name in the Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt. He joined the ‘Die Adler’ in 2018 and since then, he has registered at least 13 goals and assists in each season, with his best tally of four goals and 14 assists coming in the 2020/21 campaign.

The winger transformed into a wing-back, has an unbelievable work rate and can show defensive discipline when necessary. The assist king has every attribute needed in order to excel in his role.

DM: Marcelo Brozovic – Croatia

Continuing the strong Seria A theme, Inter player Brozovic enters the side. The Croatian is just the first player in this midfield who is technically brilliant. His ability to play progressive passes with ease and be almost press-resistant is huge for any team.

Brozovic also protects the backline extremely well and rarely loses possession, which is key when playing in a possession-based side. You could argue that he is the glue and many attacks will start via the 30-year-old.

CM: Luka Modric – Croatia

The best player in this side is 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, Luka Modric. A simply brilliant midfielder that oozes class and when the ball is at his feet, absolutely anything is possible. Modric is one of the most decorated midfielders of our generation, winning 5 UEFA Champions Leagues.

The Croatian’s passing range is out of this world and he can win a game on his own due to his creativity and ability to dictate play. The Real Madrid number 10 has showcased his goal-scoring ability in recent weeks, netting three times in his last five games. At the last World Cup in 2018, Modric won the Golden Ball and captained his side to the final. Croatia fans will be hoping that they can see a repeat in Qatar.

CM: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Serbia

Lazio midfielder Milinkovic-Savic has produced many high-level performances over the last few years. Standing at 6ft3, the Serbian brings physicality and much-needed aerial dominance to the side, which can be useful in attack and when defending set pieces.

However, the 27-year-old’s best attribute is his attacking threat. This season alone, he has contributed three goals and seven assists in 14 appearances. The only downside to Milinkovic-Savic’s game is his lack of discipline, picking up six yellow cards in the Serie A this season which is the second highest.

ST: Dusan Vlahovic – Serbia

Juventus star man Dusan Vlahovic is the first of two Seria A strikers in the Yugoslavia combined XI. The Serbian has had a pretty solid season so far, scoring six times for the Old Lady in ten appearances.

Vlahovic also played a huge role during the World Cup qualification rounds, with a goalscoring frequency of 124 minutes. The 22-year-old dynamic striker has the ability to link up play with his back to goal, as well as stretching the opposition's backline by running in behind, making him extremely difficult to defend against. If chances are created for him, Vlahovic will definitely score plenty of goals.

ST: Edin Dzeko – Bosnia & Herzegovina

It could be argued that Aleksandar Mitrovic should be in the side based on his performances for Fulham and Serbia this season, but Edin Dzeko earns his place in the starting XI. The Bosnian captain has played in Europe’s top leagues for 15 years, after shining in the 2008/09 Wolfsburg side which won the Bundesliga.

The 36-year-old has an impressive goalscoring record for every side that he has played for, including his national team where he has scored 64 goals in 126 appearances. Dzeko is known for putting the ball in the back of the net, yet his ability to bring others into the game via his link-up play is underrated and he is also technically brilliant. The tall striker is still winning games for his side, having registered three goals and one assist in his last two matches for Inter.

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