Matic’s diffuse mail: “Serbia will betray you.”
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Serbia and Montenegro still competed together, but in the same year the separation and two independent states followed. Twelve years later, the first footballing showdown took place. However, the game is now becoming a minor matter in Serbia, because a diffuse post from Nemanja Matic attracted a lot of attention and triggered a storm of speculation.
“Yes, Nemanja Matic is ready to die for Serbia, just as his homeland is ready to betray him again with the same enthusiasm. And she will do that. You don’t need to doubt that, my Nemanja,” the Manchester United midfielder posted on Instagram, causing a great lack of understanding in Serbia. It’s a quote from a February 2014 issue of the Nedeljnik newspaper. The text deals with Matic’s career up to that point; the fact that as a young player he didn’t get a chance with either Partizan or Red Star Belgrade, the two big clubs in Serbia. It was also pointed out that at the time, under national coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, he did not have a really good standing – even though he had just transferred from Benfica Lisbon to Chelsea FC for 25 million euros as a top performer and immediately became a regular there.
In the meantime, however, the 30-year-old has matured into a true leader of the “White Eagles” and has been seated under coach Mladen Krstajic. This is probably one of the reasons why Serbia is so amazed at his mail. Logically, the enigmatic contribution triggered debates. What does Matic want to say? What does he mean? There is a lot of speculation about possible answers to these questions, there is no real explanation or even clarification by the player or his management so far.
Kolarov comes, Matic stays away
It is also a fact that Matic will miss the next two Nations League matches in Montenegro on Thursday (8.45 p.m.) and three days later in Romania (3 p.m.) due to back problems. It was originally planned that the runners-up captain and the injured captain Aleksandar Kolarov (broken foot, AS Rome) would nevertheless travel to the team – Kolarov came, Matic did not. The midfielder stayed in Manchester, where he underwent rehabilitation training, as United confirmed.
In sporting terms, the focus is on the game in Podgorica, which is not only about three points and leading the league in Group 4 of the Nations League C – it is also about reputation, after all, the “big brother” does not want to embarrass himself with the “little brother”. “These are important games for us,” said Krstajic, for whom the losses of the two top performers (Kolarov/Matic) are a “big handicap”. “Nevertheless, we have our qualities and will continue our history.
Friendly tones in advance
Neighbourly duels in the Western Balkans are almost traditional high-risk games – partly due to the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s. There was a tense atmosphere again and again, especially when Serbia met Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. This time there is hope that things will change. Although there are political differences between the two countries, there is also a deep sense of solidarity. Dusan Tadic (Ajax Amsterdam) even got carried away to say that “we are still the same state. It’s the same for me.” That is another reason why there is no “additional motivation” for him. Keeper Marko Dmitrovic (SD Eibar), however, stressed that it will not be a “friendly game”, as it is a “competition game”, “but we all know each other well because we used to be part of the same state”.
Montenegro also has personnel concerns
Montenegro’s national coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic expressed a clear wish with regard to the Serbia game: “Football should outshine everything else this evening”. However, the 65-year-old is worried about his staff: he will have to do without defensive ace Stefan Savic (Atletico Madrid, calf problems). Stevan Jovetic (AS Monaco) is expected to return, although he has recently taken a break of almost three months due to persistent calf problems and consequently lacks playing practice.