Football - Serb Djordjevic ready to fire in Zagreb cauldron

Serbia's Filip Djordjevic has no stage fright ahead of the biggest match of his career when the Balkan nation visit their bitter regional rivals Croatia in a World Cup Group A qualifier on Friday.

Reuters

Djordjevic, who plays for French second division side Nantes, is expected to lead the attack in Serbia's 4-2-3-1 formation in the cauldron of Dinamo Zagreb's Maksimir stadium, where the home fans are likely to create a hostile atmosphere.

"I really don't care what they shout at us from the terraces because we don't expect a red-carpet reception and pundit assessments that Croatia are the strong favourites are actually doing us a favour by taking a lot of the pressure off," he said.

Cutting a calm and composed figure in Serbia's Stara Pazova training camp by the Belgrade-Novi Sad motorway in the vast plains of the country's northern province Vojvodina, Djordjevic said there was no tension within the squad.

"We are not worried about our safety and we are preparing for this match like any other although I know it's the biggest game I'd have played for club or country if selected," he said.

Djordjevic has scored 52 league goals in 150 games for Nantes since joining them in 2008 after one season at 1991 European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade.

He was also on target on his international debut last November, when Serbia beat Chile 3-1 in a friendly.

Apart from their 6-1 win over Wales in Novi Sad, Serbia have failed to score in their other three qualifiers and are third in the group with four points, six adrift of leaders Belgium and Croatia.

Acknowledging that only a win in Zagreb would keep Serbia in the hunt for a berth in next year's tournament in Brazil, Djordjevic was confident he could match Croatia's in-form striker Mario Mandzukic who has established himself as a starter at Bayern Munich.

"Mandzukic is an outstanding player but his performance will largely depend on how Croatia's midfield and defence cope with us and we will try to do the best job we can to thwart their raids," he said.

"On the other hand, the Chile friendly and the other one against Cyprus helped me blend with the team and get to know the players so I am really looking forward to the challenge.

"Our confidence was at its lowest ebb after the 3-0 home defeat by Belgium and a 1-0 setback at Macedonia in our last two qualifiers so what we need is a breakthrough against a top side like Croatia to restore it.

"The Croatians have built a formidable side in the last few years and we are trying to do the same by giving young players a chance on the big stage. We will grow too and I think this match could not have come at a better point in time for Serbia."

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