Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Serbia's Mihajlovic orders caution after Wales drubbing
By Zoran Milosavljevic
NOVI SAD, Serbia (Reuters) - Serbia's Sinisa Mihajlovic might have been tempted to celebrate the biggest win of his coaching career but instead he ordered his players to stay focused after a morale-boosting 6-1 mauling of Wales in a World Cup Group A qualifier on Tuesday.
Having come under heavy pressure from fans and media after two draws and three defeats under his tenure, in which Serbia scored just one goal and conceded six, Mihajlovic gambled with a blend of youth and experience against the Welsh.
The policy reaped handsome dividends in Serbia's northern city of Novi Sad, where he inspired local club Vojvodina to the Yugoslav league title in 1989 as a teenage midfielder, as Serbia produced their most impressive performance in years.
"This is a young team and if their enthusiasm can blend in with the experience of the senior players, we have a good chance of going through to the World Cup finals," the 43-year old coach, who had spells with several Serie A clubs before he took over Serbia in May, told a news conference.
"We had the boldness we lacked against the Scots and the early goal was crucial in taking the pressure off but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard in order to improve," Mihajlovic said.
"I would have said the same thing if we had lost tonight's match because I told the players to enjoy themselves and not worry about the result. They duly obliged and perhaps that's what allowed us to make a flying start tonight and keep up the momentum throughout the match."
The steely-eyed former Yugoslavia international whose biggest accomplishment as a player was winning the European Cup with Red Star Belgrade in 1991, lightened up when asked how big a part a frenetic home crowd played in the victory.
"They were fantastic and I wish to thank them for creating a cracking atmosphere," said Mihajlovic. "They set an example how the home fans should support their team."
Wales manager Chris Coleman criticised his players for what he called a shameful performance.
"We knew it was going to be difficult but we didn't see this coming. To say we are disappointed is an understatement and we have to do much better because the goals we conceded were criminal," he said.
"You can't gift goals at this level and we have a mountain to climb because we have not gone into halftime on level terms in any of the four games since I've been in charge."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)