Superstition is ingrained in the Serbian way of life. So much so that it has spawned a long list of folkish customs that are still adhered to today, particularly in rural areas. Ana Ivanovic, the country's best female tennis player, would avoid stepping on the tramlines of the court believing that if she did she would lose her match. Among more outlandish old wives' tales is a belief that whistling in the house will attract mice or washing the clothes of a person who is travelling will ensure they never return home.

If it all seems faintly ridiculous to some, a preoccupation with the mystical has spawned national television celebrities – one a transgender prophet called Kleopatra and the other a card reader named Milan Tarot, who claims that Barack Obama and Bill Gates have used his talents for advice.

So you can imagine how the Serb media has responded to the discovery of a WhatsApp conversation between Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, the Standard Liege goalkeeper and brother of Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, prior to Serbia's Euro 2020 semi-final play-off victory over Norway.

“Come on, give me two goals,” asked Vanja of his brother in a series of messages that were published by online newspapers yesterday.

"Then I will," came the portentous reply from Sergej, who duly scored twice in a 2-1 win to send the Serbs into a winner-takes-all decider against Scotland next month.

“Incredible,” proclaimed Telegraf, as if it was the work of some supernatural force working on Serbia's behalf, rather than the words of a confident footballer making a bold prediction to a family member. “Brotherly love moves mountains,” suggested Novosti, getting into the spirit of things.

Having never scored a goal for Serbia in 16 previous international games and starting on the bench, it was perhaps predictable that the idea of a lucky premonition was invoked. More of a surprise is that it has taken Milinkovic-Savic so long to break his duck at international level. One look at his clinical double – a six-yard volley and sumptuous chip in extra-time – to stun a Norway side containing global-superstar-in-waiting Erling Haaland was ample evidence of an incongruity.

It was a result that came on the blindside with Norway marginal pre-match favourites courtesy of home advantage and their lethal front man but, save for one header that was scrambled off the line, the Borussia Dortmund striker had a quiet night. Haaland is not Norway's only burgeoning talent. Martin Odegaard, the starlet once tracked by Celtic, is now a fully fledged Real Madrid player. Alexander Sorloth, the Turkish league's top goalscorer last season, recently joined RB Leipzig, one of the go-to production lines for would-be future stars. And the list goes on.

Of course to focus too closely on one country's abundant riches, is to run the risk of ignoring another's.

Serbia have been making waves at international youth tournaments over the past decade. A team containing both Milinkovic-Savic brothers, first-choice goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic and Namanja Maksimovic won the Under-20 World Cup in 2015, beating Brazil 2-1 in the final. The Under-19s finished runners-up in the European Championships of 2013 and the Under-21s have reached three successive tournaments at their age-group equivalent.

It hasn't happened by luck or divine intervention, Serbia's rise to prominence in European underage football has been all about design.

Worried that young children were opting for basketball, tennis and volleyball, the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) started a campaign, 'My school – my team', at the core of which was a national football competition for primary school children. Next, the FSS signed an agreement with the Spanish FA in 2007 to share ideas and institute a regular series of friendlies at different youth levels. The association also took a close look at the French national academy structure at Clairefontaine and the one run by their Italian counterparts at Coverciano.

The conclusion of their due diligence was that they needed an academy of their own and so in 2011 they built the 'House of Football' – an ultra-modern facility with seven pitches, sport hall and hotel – in Stara Pazova. A further 12 artificial pitches were built across the country to aid local clubs in their development of young talent.

"It was the right decision to invest heavily in the youth programmes," said Radovan Ćurčić, the former Serbia head coach who also enjoyed a successful period in charge of the Under-21s. "We still cannot compare to the biggest nations, but Stara Pazova has given us the possibility to work with all the amazing talent we have, and to educate coaches. There are a lot of people involved, and there is a lot of enthusiasm."

It is no surprise that Serbia has reaped a dividend. Of those who won the Under-20 World Cup in 2015, five were involved in the squad that beat Norway. It says something about just how strong Serbian football is as a whole that only one other player from that trailblazing line-up – Liverpool's Marko Grujic – has been a recent international call-up.

Indeed, Milinkovic-Savic – who has only remained at Lazio in recent seasons because of the astronomical price tag the Rome club has placed on him – was an 81st-minute substitute in Oslo.

Somewhat bizarrely, he has never been a regular for Serbia yet he retains the ability to force himself into the conversation over who are the world's best box-to-box midfielders. That his goals against Norway were the first for his country is remarkable because in Serie A he has been a regular contributor, averaging around one every 5.5 games. Now 25, he has fallen short of the high expectations that surrounded him following a 14-goal season in 2017-18.

He's a muscular competitor, every inch the modern-day No.8, and some believe he is better than Paul Pogba. Haaland's exit from the tournament will rob it of some gold dust but may also provide Milinkovic-Savic with the opportunity to finally fulfil his outstanding potential. Serbia, too, might look ahead to next summer and see a Euro 2020 group containing England, Croatia and Czech Republic as a chance to make a real impact at a major tournament – this time at senior level.

The only thing standing in Serbia's way, of course, is Scotland on November 12 in Belgrade.

Good fortune or otherwise, expect Kleopatra and Milan Tarot to have a busy month ahead.