Capello should keep watchful eye on Antic’s Serbia
Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, West Germany… these are the only countries to have knocked England out of the World Cup since Sir Alf Ramsay’s men triumphed in 1966.
Last time round it was the winker Cristiano Ronaldo who struck the decisive blow and speculation is mounting over who, if anyone, will do it in South Africa.
Tournament structure suggests that Serbia have a surprisingly good chance of ending Fabio Capello and co’s hopes, and are priced at 8/1 to do so.
Should England top Group C as expected then the runners-up from Group D will be next, and despite a shaky bit of pre-tournament form the smart money is on Radi Antic’s team to provide the round of 16 opposition.
Should such a situation arise then England will face the likes Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic, both of whom have featured in Premier League teams from the previous two seasons.
Birmingham City-bound Nikola Zigic is Serbia’s version of Peter Crouch, while Inter’s Dejan Stankovic and Manchester United’s Zoran Tosic will provide the creative spark.
Serbia have lost to New Zealand and drawn with Poland in their warm-up games but edged Cameroon 4-3 in a thrilling match last time out. Indeed, England shouldn’t write off a team who beat France to World Cup qualification and are currently ranked 15th in the world by FIFA.
Old foes Germany have seen to England’s demise three times since Bobby Moore lifted the trophy and they are the favourites here at an ominously short 6/1.
They could meet England in the second round if one of the sides slips up and finishes second in their group, and with Ghana (20/1) and Australia (25/1) also in Group D such a scenario isn’t impossible for the Germans.
Whoever lands the fatal punch, it could be an indication of tournament victors – five times have the country to knock England out gone on the lift the trophy.