Croatia 2, Serbia 0
Fans greeted the visitors with chants that included ”Kill, Kill
the Serbs!” as Croatia beat Serbia 2-0 on Friday night in a World
Cup qualifier that marked the first soccer meeting between the
Balkan rivals since their war in the 1990s.
Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic scored first-half goals for
Croatia, which like Serbia was once part of Yugoslavia.
”It was fantastic, and I’ll remember it all my life,”
Thousands of riot police were deployed at packed Maksimir
Stadium to prevent trouble from home fans. Serbian supporters were
banned from attending to prevent possible clashes.
Tensions were high because of the wartime history, and the win
triggered street celebrations and fireworks in many Croatian
cities. Streets in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, were empty.
”This is a victory for the whole of Croatia,” Olic said.
Mandzukic scored on a tap-in in the 23rd minute after a wayward
pass by Serbia’s Aleksandar Kolarov, and Olic doubled the lead in
the 37th of a cross from Darijo Srna.
”We all know what this means to our country,” Srna said.
Belgium, which won 2-0 at Macedonia, leads Europe Group A on
goal difference over Croatia, both with 13 points at 4-0-1. Wales
(2-3) has six points, followed by Serbia and Macedonia (both 1-3-1)
with four apiece.
The group winner qualifies for the 32-nation field in Brazil
next year, while the second-place team likely will advance to a
”We lost to a more experienced and better team,” Serbia coach
Sinisa Mihajlovic said. ”We conceded two cheap goals, we played
better in the second half, we had chances, but we paid the price of
inexperience. We went into the game with fear and that’s what
Jovana Gec contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.