Vlahovic warns England that Serbia have studied Iceland’s Wembley win

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Serbia will take inspiration from Iceland’s recent victory at Wembley as they plot to surprise England on Sunday, according to their centre-forward Dusan Vlahovic.

The meeting in Gelsenkirchen will be Serbia’s first at a European Championship in its current form and the hope is that a talented but mercurial side will step up to the plate. They bowed out after the group stage of the past two World Cups but Vlahovic, who forms part of a potentially formidable attack, sees a blueprint for early success in the way England were tamed a week ago.

“No one is invincible,” Vlahovic said. “We looked at the match against Iceland and there are things that can be copied from them, because they beat them at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. Everything is possible. They are the favourites, maybe the biggest in the tournament, but we believe in ourselves and we are going step by step to present ourselves in the best light.”

There is little expectation among the Serbian public that Dragan Stojkovic’s side can mount a challenge this summer, even if they look an appealing prospect on paper. The sense is that a gifted squad blew its chance at Qatar 2022, finishing bottom of their group after failing to find a balance between attack and defence. That remains a problem but Vlahovic believes a relative lack of pressure can be turned to their advantage.

“It’s certainly different from Qatar,” he said. “It’s easier for us that there is not so much euphoria. Sometimes a bit of unreality comes out of the euphoria, [like] when we qualified and everyone thought we were going to the semi-finals in Qatar. This way we have a calmer environment and can prepare more serenely for the upcoming matches. We are here to compete and get a result.”

Vlahovic scored 16 goals for Juventus in Serie A last season but plays second fiddle for Serbia behind Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has taken to life at Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League with ease. Should he start alongside Mitrovic against England he may face comparisons with Harry Kane, who is six and a half years his senior but shares some stylistic traits.

“He scored 44 goals this year and has scored over 300 goals in his career,” Vlahovic said, showing impressive command of Kane’s record. “He is, at the moment, if not the best striker in the world then one of the best. So I don’t want to put pressure on myself and don’t want to compare myself with players like this, because he has played at this level for around 10 years and is one of the best ever.

“Of course it will be a chance for me because I play with no pressure: everybody is expecting England to win the Euros so it is a good opportunity. But I don’t want to compare with strikers like him.”

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Serbia are based in Augsburg, occupying an elaborate hotel in the centre. It is an amenable location far from Gelsenkirchen, where around 15,000 fans are expected to support them; most of the atmosphere locally this week has come from Scotland supporters, more than 500 of whom are believed to have stayed in the city in preparation for the half-hour trip to Munich for their opening match. Vlahovic is happy with the feeling around a camp that is quietly going about its business. “The atmosphere in the team is great and it can only get better, so we are all happy and can’t wait for the game to start,” he said.

The match has been deemed “high risk” by German authorities, who are alert to the possibility of up to 500 Serbian hooligans attempting to cause violence.

Source: theguardian.com

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