The pre-tournament games have sprung up a few surprises this summer, with a number of the top teams getting less than satisfactory results in their World Cup run in. Serbia’s 1-0 defeat to New Zealand in a friendly game in Austria threatened to turn real sour, though, as Serbia fans were so enraged by their team’s performance that they stormed the field and almost got the game called off.

In the second half, some 10,000 Serbians started throwing bottles and flares onto the field, and a few of them invaded the field, trying to get to the players. Stand-in Serbia captain Namanja Vidic had to plead with them to calm down over a microphone, while New Zeeland players threatened to walk off. The Manchester United defender’s words were eventually heeded, and the fans allowed the game to continue.

This sort of thing really is crazy and there are no excuses for it. Yes, playing badly right before the start of the World Cup doesn’t make anyone happy, but storming the pitch over a friendly game is ridiculous. Serbia fans have had a number of such incidents both on international and club level over the years, and one hopes they don’t bring this attitude to South Africa. But even if they do, the SA police has been training long and hard to keep things safe and cool tensions.

The Serbian team will have to reorganize itself in a big way, however, as it will take an impressive feat to qualify from a group containing Germany, Australia and Ghana.


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