Nemanja Matic is poised for his first appearance in a major international tournament on Sunday afternoon, as his beloved Serbia begin their 2018 World Cup campaign by taking on Costa Rica in Samara.
“We had a lot of pressure before this qualification, as we didn’t go to Brazil [for the 2014 World Cup] or the last European championship,”explains Nemanja.
“So there was a lot of pressure on us and it was very important for us to go there directly. We did it and I was very happy.
“It was emotional for me and my team-mates and I’m happy we will represent our country in Russia. It’s very nice for our people.”
Matic's stunner at PalaceVideo
“I think we will have our chance but we have to do our best, prepare very well and we will see. It is difficult to say [what our chances of progression are].
“Of course we are working very hard on everything, but there will be a lot of great quality in the tournament. But we are positive. There is a long way to go but I am always positive.”
“Every team was, more or less, at the same level, so it was a difficult group for us,”reflects our midfield colossus.
“We had Austria, Georgia and Moldova, as well as Wales and Republic of Ireland. We didn’t have any team that was better than the others.
“But we managed to come first and I’m happy for that, especially when you consider Wales played in the semi-finals of the last Euros. They were only third in the group and I feel my team did well, so I am very happy for that.”