Serbia’s thrilling 2-2 draw with Bulgaria on 19 November ensured that, after many near misses, the country will finally make its debut in the European Championship finals in 2024 starting on the 14th of June.
Serbia’s players could barely believe what they had achieved, which will go down in Serbian football history. Many Serbian football fans still remember the penalty that former Al-Hilal star Aleksandar Mitrovic missed against Scotland back in 2020. sealing Scotland’s qualification and leaving the Serbian players very upset after years of coming so close to qualifying.
Joining the list of debutant nations
Serbia joins a list of countries to have qualified for the finals of Europe’s biggest football competition for the first time, including North Macedonia and Finland, who competed in the last European Championship finals in 2020. After achieving their goal, the players from this generation, who also managed to qualify for the previous two World Cups, aspire to display their ability at the highest level to others their maximum potential.
Teodora Ninkov, a 26-year-old Serbian who is an International Communication and Media student at Thomas More University, explains the significance of this accomplishment for her nation: ‘Serbia hasn’t participated in that competition in so many years, so it means a lot that we qualified. After so many years of waiting, we are now enjoying it, and we still find it hard to believe. ‘Teodora also discusses Serbia’s sports culture and the country’s favourite sport, saying: ‘Football has always been more popular in Serbia, despite the country’s abundance of talented athletes. While excellent athletes are achieving great results in other sports, such as water polo, football receives greater investment. ‘
As they prepare for the European Championship finals, coach Dragan Stojković highlighted how tough the competition will be. ‘We acknowledge that this is a historic accomplishment, but the true test is still to come. We’re prepared to take on the greatest in Europe and leave our mark on the biggest stage,’ he said.
By qualifying for the European Championship, Serbia has shown the determination of its football community in addition to making history for the country. The road has been marked by perseverance as the country has bounced back from missed penalties and other disappointments to ensure celebrations throughout Belgrade. A country that has yearned for this moment for so long will finally be represented by a group of players ready to take on the best nations in Europe.
Text: Raúl Pérez
Photo: Dom Le Roy via Pexels