Yugoslavia 'dream team' could win World Cup, if it existed
Europe would have its own Brazil in the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, if Yugoslavia had not disappeared from the map 20 years ago. Any coach would face a difficult selection if he had to create a Yugoslavian team - there are so many talented footballers from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Kosovo.
Since Yugoslavia's disintegration, every World Cup has been contested by at least two ex-Yugoslav republics. The upcoming tournament is no exception, South Africa, "the nation of the rainbow," will host teams from Serbia and Slovenia.
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Former Yugoslav republics fare better than ex-Soviet states - although the latter number more than double than the former Yugoslavia's constituent parts, none of them qualified to compete in South Africa.
It was once a common saying in the Balkan federation that Yugoslavia has 20 million football team managers. Public opinion was fiercely divided on who should play for The Plavi (the Yugoslav team nickname). Divisions existed not just along ethnic lines, but also on the basis of football club allegiances.
According to recent research on teams which failed to win the World Cup, the Yugoslav team would most likely have become world champions in 1994. Unfortunately, the region's star players could not participate in that World Cup, in the US, due to the Balkan wars. Just four years later, Croatia won bronze and Serbia reached the quarter-finals in the World Cup in France.
Following the long-established tradition of football opinion divisions, WAZ.Euobserver has put together two "all star" Yugoslav teams.
Here is Augustin Palokaj's choice. In the brackets are the nationalities and names of the current club of each player.
HANDANOVIC (SLOVENIAN, UDINESE)
CORLUKA (CROAT, TOTTENHAM), IVANOVIC (SERB, CHELSEA), VIDIC (SERB, MANCHESTER UNITED), CANA (KOSOVAR, SUNDERLAND)
STANKOVIC (SERB, INTER MILANO), MISIMOVIC (BOSNIAN,WOLFSBURG), MODRIC (CROAT, TOTTENHAM), PJANIC (BOSNIAN, LYON)
DZEKO(BOSNIAN, WOLFSBURG), OLIC (CROAT, BAYERN MUNICH)
Here is Zeljko Pantelic's choice.
HANDANOVIC (SLOVENIAN, UDINESE)
IVANOVIC (SERB, CHELSEA), SUBOTIC (SERB, DORTMUND), VIDIC (SERB, MANCHESTER UNITED), KOLAROV (SERB, LAZIO ROM)
STANKOVIC (SERB,INTER MILANO), PRANJIC (CROAT, BAYERN MUNICH)
KRASIC (SERB, CSKA), MISIMOVIC (BOSNIAN,WOLFSBURG), PANDEV (MACEDONIAN, INTER MILANO)
VUCINIC (MONTENEGRIN, ROMA)
The interest in football both unites and divides Balkan countries. In this respect, our selection would undoubtedly be criticised from Ljubljana to Skopje. It excludes excellent players such as Jovetic from Fiorentina, Kranjcar (Tottenham), Zigic (Birmingham), Jovanovic (Liverpool), Ibisevic (Hoffenheim), Rakitic (Schalke 04), Petric (Hamburg), Kuzmanovic(Stuttgart), Lukovic (Udinese), Dragutinovic (Seville), Novakovic (Koln) and many more.