But the Serb, who played a key role in Scotland's most agonising exit from a finals, has grave fears that his country, who kick off their qualifying campaign against the Scots at Hampden on Saturday, won't make it this time.
As a coach, Petkovic guided Serbia to the 2006 finals, but he suspects current manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will not follow in his footsteps due to a lack of goalscoring threat.
The former midfielder was part of the Yugoslavia side that reached the knockout stages of the 1974 World Cup in West Germany ahead of Willie Ormond's Scotland. Petkovic played in his country's 1-1 draw with the Scots and scored in the 9-0 rout of Zaire that helped see the Yugoslavs through on goal difference.
But the 66-year-old, who has had two spells in charge of the Serbs, is gloomy about their chances of making it to Brazil, citing last month's 0-0 friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland as a taste of things to come. Pulling no punches, he said: "I cannot see any glimmer of hope ahead of a very important competition, and the Ireland game was a huge warning. We have no outstanding striker, a player to turn creation in midfield into goals."
Mihajlovic tried the inexperienced pairing of Dejan Lekic and Lazar Markovic against the Irish. Between them they have just eight caps and no goals. He also brought back Zenit St Petersburg striker Danko Lazovic, who had retired from international football, and may use him at Hampden.
However, Petkovic believes Mihajlovic's best bet lies in bringing back 6ft 8in Nikola Zigic, who has scored 20 times for his country but who has been out of favour because he cannot command a place in the team at Birmingham, where he was a £6 million signing from Valencia for Alex McLeish in 2010.
Petkovic said: "It would have done us much more good if we'd lost 4-3 to the Irish instead of drawing 0-0. You learn much more from a defeat than a win or a goalless draw. We are slowly fading away as a team, waiting for a striker to turn up.
"The striker issue is a pressing one because you can't reach the World Cup proper without scoring goals. We might as well restore Zigic to the team in a situation where his help could be key. We need to put vanities aside and everyone has to pull together so this Serbia team starts taking proper shape.
"We have yet to mature as a midfield unit. There is no player who joins in the attack from midfield. We lack pace, penetration along the flanks and shots at goal. We need to be a lot sharper when we take on Scotland, and with a clear vision of what we are trying to achieve, otherwise our chances of reaching Brazil will be really slim."
However, Petkovic shares Mihajlovic's belief that when it comes to defence, Serbia will still be tough to break down. Manchester United centre-back Nemanja Vidic has retired from international football, but Mihajlovic can still call on Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic – the Serb captain – and Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back.
And then there are Borussia Dortmund's Neven Subotic (whom Chelsea offered £17m for in January) and Matija Nastasic, who joined City from Fiorentina on Friday night. "Ivanovic and Kolarov do a fine job and Nastasic has real potential," Petkovic said. "That us some hope because in football the defence is the foundation of any success."
While the rest of the Serbian defenders emerged from the youth systems at clubs such as such as Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, Subotic played for the USA at under-20 level before deciding to commit to Serbia in 2008. His family fled the war-torn former Yugoslavia in 1991 at the age of 18 months, moving to Germany and then the US. Jurgen Klopp spotted his talent and took him to Mainz, with Subotic following the coach to Dortmund.
Scotland, though, will hope that Petkovic's fears come true and that there is payback for that cruel cut on goal difference 38 summers ago.