After gaining just one point between them from the opening round of fixtures in Group A, Serbia and Wales meet on Tuesday in Kovi Sad (19:30 BST) with both nations hoping to kick-start their campaigns to reach Brazil 2014.
Serbia secured a 0-0 draw in their opening fixture away to Scotland, with both sides missing good opportunities that could have seen the three points go either way. Wales, too, failed to trouble the scoreboard at home to Belgium, going down 2-0.
Optimism is not exactly high in either dressing room, especially as each country is having awful trouble finding the back of the net. Serbia have scored just once in five matches since Sinisa Mihajlovic took charge in April this year. Wales have failed to score in four matches so far this year, three under the command of current coach Chris Coleman.
When he took charge, Mihajlovic inherited a Serbia team that had failed to qualify for the 2012 European Championships and from which Dejan Stankovic and Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic had just retired. He has injected youth into the squad, but there has been little exciting or vibrant about his Serbia team so far.
Despite experiments with various formations, Mihajlovic has yet to stumble on a winning formula. What’s more his side have struggled defensively at times, the dependable, experienced Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic almost single-handedly holding things together against Scotland.
The apathy of the Serbian public towards Mihajlovic’s rejuvenation of the national team was best displayed by the mere 5000-odd (less than 10% of stadium capacity) that turned up for their 0-0 friendly draw against the Republic of Ireland last month. Tuesday’s match has been moved to the small, 12,300 capacity, Karadorde Stadium to spare the football association further embarrassment.
Welsh supporters, too, have had little to cheer about since Chris Coleman took the reins of the national team earlier this year. Just over 20,000 turned up to the Millennium Stadium for the defeat to Belgium, although this was still somewhere in the region of 6,000 short of full capacity, a situation that record cap holder Neville Southall labelled “disgusting.”
Those supporters who did attend witnessed a third successive 0-2 defeat – a disappointing start to a qualifying campaign that many had hoped would yield a first World Cup finals appearance since 1958.
The sending off of James Collins before the half hour mark obviously complicated matters, as did the virus-enforced absence of Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, the hub of Coleman’s midfield. But there was precious little of the zest and determination that had characterised their last competitive match on home soil – a 2-0 win over Switzerland in October 2011.
Wales also missed the injured striker Craig Bellamy, whose off-ball movement and incisive running on the ball can be a threat to any team. He will again be absent on Tuesday and without him it is hard to see where a Wales goal will come from.
There were signs in Serbia’s defensive performance against Scotland that suggest Gareth Bale could have a field day running at their defence, but Wales first need to provide him with the ball in dangerous areas, something they proved incapable of doing on Friday. Aaron Ramsey will really need to step up to the mark if they are to get a positive result.
Serbia vs Wales Betting Tips Verdict
It is difficult to imagine either team being able to impose themselves on the match and our two suggested bets echo our suspicion that this is likely to be a pretty dour affair.