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Pride and preppiness

MANCHESTER CITY defender Aleksandar Kolarov admits his Serbia side and Scotland are already out of the Rio World Cup, but insists the Balkan nation will be motivated for Tuesday's showdown in Novi Sad.

Serbia's clash with bitter rivals Croatia produced a tinderbox setting but the match passed without any serious incident Photograph: EPA
Serbia's clash with bitter rivals Croatia produced a tinderbox setting but the match passed without any serious incident Photograph: EPA

The Serbs and the Scots are facing a battle to avoid the wooden spoon in Group A after a series of abysmal results. While Scotland were losing yet again to Wales, the Serbs went down 2-0 in Croatia with barely a murmur, despite the frenzied atmosphere in Zagreb.

Kolarov in particular had a nightmare, giving the ball away for Croatia's opening goal in the first half. And he was booked later on, meaning he will miss the encounter with Gordon Strachan's side.

But he still believes the youngsters sent out by manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will eventually turn good. They have occasionally showed glimpses of their potential – they whipped Wales 6-1 last year in the same venue where they will play Scotland. However, Kolarov admits both countries are now playing only for pride. He said: "We knew before the game that if we lost it would be nearly impossible for us. Belgium won their match so it now becomes very difficult for every country in the group except them and Croatia. We have four points and they have 13. I don't see how any other country can go to Brazil.

"For Scotland it's the same. They haven't won a game and the group is now half finished. I don't think they can come from having two points to qualify. But even though the situation is like this, Tuesday is still a big match for us. We are a young team and we need more experience, so to play against Scotland will give us some opportunities.

"The group has not gone the way they wanted it to, but we have to concentrate on ourselves. If we win we go to seven points, which could take us above Wales into third place. We are trying to progress in every game so the younger ones grow into international footballers."

Serbia were easily beaten in what was something of an anti-climax in Zagreb on Friday. They seemed to be so intent on making sure they satisfied every Fair Play criteria going that they lost their edge and meekly surrendered to the Croats.

Mind you, when 35,000 fans are singing 'Kill All Serbs' constantly, it's perhaps understandable their minds weren't fully focused on the job at hand, but the former Lazio player wasn't hugely impressed by the Croats either.

Kolarov admitted: "It was a difficult night for us. We made two mistakes and because of that we lost the game. Mistakes happen and no-one had to tell me about it. I know what I did was wrong. But if there were no mistakes, every game would finish 0-0.

"We can't be satisfied with the way the group has gone for us. Apart from one match, we haven't scored goals so we see where the problem is. On Friday we had two chances – one we missed and the other Stipe Pletikosa made a good save. But there's nothing we can do about it now.

"The build-up to the game was different to normal games, so we were prepared for the kind of match it was. But after everything that was said and written, I expected more from the Croatian team. I didn't think they were anything special.

"They are an experienced team and they have some good players, but in the second-half we matched them. However, by then it was too late for us. They were better than us for the two goals, but not at any other time.

"We are a young team and we had a problem in the build-up to the game because we don't play long-ball football. But their strikers pressed us very well and we sometimes had to. It's not our way to play that kind of football and it made it difficult for our strikers."

Croatian fans spent most of the game baiting Serbia in the first-ever meeting between the two former Yugoslav nations, but the game was played in an excellent spirit.

Kolarov insisted: "The game was played in the proper way, very responsibly. A lot of our young players don't have any problem with the atmosphere. They don't feel the pressure of the match that comes from the history of the countries. It was a good game in terms of fair play. There were some chants from the Croatian fans, but nothing that caused us any problems."

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