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Watch: Stankovic backs Brazil for World Cup glory

Video: Jonathan Borg. Editing: Elisa Lemarchand.

One of the most intriguing and physical players that the Serie A produced in the past decade was Dejan Stankovic.

Throughout his playing career in Italy the fiery Serbian enjoyed successful spells with Lazio and Inter.

The former Serbia skipper, who is currently providing his expertise for the development of the game to UEFA, was recently in Malta on an invitation by Inter Club Malta and spoke to Gianluca Lia… 

In fact, the former hard-working midfielder boasts a plethora of silverware at club level which include the Serie A, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. 

Stankovic was a threat anywhere from his opponent’s half and his competitive edge earned him a lot of respect from every fan base he represented, including that of his own nation Serbia, who he will be following closely during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

Stankovic, known also as Deki, represented his nation in three different World Cup editions under three separate names. 

In 1998, he played for Yugoslavia for whom he scored in their thrilling 2-2 stalemate against Germany in their second group game. 

His next appearance came eight years later, when in Germany, Stankovic captained the newly-named Serbia and Montenegro but their campaign was a disastrous one as they succumbed to three defeats in as many games played. 

His last World Cup finals appearance was in 2010, when although they finished bottom of Group D, they had the satisfaction of upsetting Germany 1-0. 

Stankovic has no doubts about who is the main favourite for this year’s World Cup, as he tips Brazil as the team to beat in Russia, even though there are other solid teams who can challenge the Selecao

“Brazil are the top favourites to win the competition given how they qualified and the quality they have in their roster,” Stankovic told the the Times of Malta. 

“However, there could be other teams that can challenge them for the ultimate prize including Spain, Germany and also France.” 

The 39-year old is hoping that his nation Serbia can be one of the dark horses that usually emerge from such a competition.

His hopes are based on the fact that the Eastern European nation boasts some promising talents in the team. 

With just a few days from the start of the World Cup the signs look prominsing as in their latest warm-up, the Serbs crushed Bolivia 5-1, in a match where Aleksandar Mitrovic netted a hat-trick and Branislav Ivanovic equalled Stankovic’s record of 103 international caps. 

“I really hope that Serbia can be the surprise of the tournament, and I am confident that they can do well,” the former Inter midfielder said. 

“Recently, I had the opportunity of visiting a few training sessions and I really through they are well prepared for the World Cup. 

“No doubt, having a talent like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the team inevitably raises expectations on our team but I think we still have to let him express his talent without any extra pressure, even though he is one of the hottest talents across Europe at the moment.” 

Dejan Stankovic. Photo: Jonathan BorgDejan Stankovic. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Stankovic’s longest spell as a player was at Inter, having spent nine seasons. During that time, he had the privilege of captaining the side several times. 

This time around, Inter’s armband is currently being worn by Mauro Icardi, who despite topped the Serie A top scorer list with 29 goals, was snubbed by Argentina. 

“For me, Mauro Icardi could have still been called up despite the presence of Gonzalo Higuain,” Stankovic explained. 

“I don’t really understand how can such a prolific scorer like Icardi in such an important league can be overlooked and it is a pity because Icardi is a pure talent, a real professional and an enormous leader despite his age and the responsibility of representing a huge club like Inter.” 

Speaking of Argentina, Stankovic does not see them as favourites to win the World Cup because although Lionel Messi’s talent is special, the team lacks balance and composition. 

“Lionel Messi is the greatest in the world, but unlike in the past, one player cannot lift an entire nation and carry on until the end…I see Argentina’s chances of winning the World Cup very slim,” the Serb said. 

This year’s edition of the World Cup will be a historic one because it will be the first time that the VAR technology will be used, a system which although he agrees with, Stankovic still points out some flaws which may have a negative impact on the game. 

“The VAR can be very helpful, just like the goal-line technology as it can create a level of fairness in the game,” Stankovic explained. 

“Nonetheless, there is still the need of clarifying the criteria of when it has to be applied in order to create less confusion and remove the burden of pressure on the referees throughout the games.”

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