Dusan Tadic: From Serbia to Southampton, this is my story

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(Dusan Tadic talking to Joe Prince-Wright)

When I was growing up as a kid in Serbia, I had always dreamed of this moment. Last week we did it. We qualified for the World Cup. When you play for your country, everyone remembers you if you play in a World Cup. It is that simple.

I remember the 1998 World Cup when we were Yugoslavia, I had the sticker albums of all the players and I still remember that squad and who was playing.

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It is very nice to be there, at the World Cup, and we need to try and go step by step and see how far we can get. A lot of people are saying we can provide some surprises and not much is expected of us, but we don’t see it like that.

With Serbia, there will always be pressure.

We are the kind of players and people who do not know how to live without pressure. Even if we play against Brazil or some of the other bigger countries, we think we are better than them. That is the way we are. People expect us to beat the big teams and we have plenty of pressure from within.

It has always been that way, lots of pressure, but at the start it was all much simpler…


HOW IT ALL BEGAN

There were a lot of kids, everywhere, and we were always playing outside in the streets.

I think this is the best way to learn football, to play with your friends, street football, looking back, those are wonderful memories and I look back on that time in my life fondly.

My hometown, Backa Topola, was in the north of the country near the Hungarian border. It is a nice part of Serbia and I am very happy I grew up there.

Growing up, one of my best memories is getting my first pair of boots. There were Adidas and one of my fathers friends gave them to me. They were a special present and I wore them all the time. When it came to my first shirt, well, this was a little interesting. My father likes Partizan Belgrade and my uncle, well, he likes Red Star Belgrade. They are huge rivals and they would always get me a shirt from each club. Ah man, that was rough.

The shirt I held closest to my heart is one I had when I was 13. It was the shirt from the 1998 World Cup that Yugoslavia wore and had Predrag Mijatovic’s name on the back. You remember that shirt, the one with the big collar?  We did really well in that tournament and I wore that shirt everywhere. I still have it somewhere at home.

Our country has gone through a lot of tough times, especially when I was growing up, but I think playing football gave myself and other kids at the time an escape from everything else that was going on. Those were tough times.

When it is like this, it is important that kids play football or another sport because you are in nicer situations and have positive vibes around you. Because if you don’t play sport at times like that, I don’t know what you would do.

I am very happy I grew up in Serbia. You can have tough times, good times, but you learn a lot. I am incredibly proud of where I am from.

My father, that’s where my love for the game comes from. He watched every single game I played in growing up. He still does now. All of my family and friends, they would come to watch me and their support was incredible.

Every coach I’ve had, even if something was wrong, you still learn something from every single one of them. I am very lucky to have had so many good coaches over the years who I tried to learn from.

My idol growing up was Zinedine Zidane. I tried to learn from him. He did everything to perfection. Everything was easy for him. I loved watching him. He was a genius.

Not just the way he played but I also like his personality, the calmness he has off the pitch and the way he carries himself. After I watched him on TV I would go straight out into the street in Serbia to try and play like him.

I was lucky that I moved to a team like Vojvodina at the age of 14. They are known to have the best academy in Serbia, so there are many similarities to how things are here at Southampton with an emphasis on bringing through young talent.

Vojvodina always gave young players a chance and by the time I was 16 I was in the first team and then we went to the Europa League and it was a great time for me with wonderful coaches who pushed me to my maximum. I’m pleased that the pressure was so high when I started off there. That made me into the player I am today and helped me want to succeed and get better.

When I then moved to Holland, at the beginning I was looking around like “why is everyone so relaxed?” I was confused. After you lost a game, everyone was laughing and everything. If you did that in Serbia, that would be a big problem.

It took me time to adapt to the less intense atmosphere in Holland but I played with, and against, some great players who ended up with me here at Southampton. Graziano Pelle and Jordy Clasie from Feyenoord and then a young Virgil Van Dijk was just coming into the first team in my second year at Groningen.

When I played in the Netherlands, the league was very strong but a lot of players have left the Eredivisie and they are struggling a little with a lot of young players coming through.

But when I look back at my time in Holland with Groningen and FC Twente, this was the most important period of my life. I was at that stage when I had to grow as a player and a person. I am happy I was there. Holland has a philosophy of football which links up with how I like to play.

I learned a lot and it prepared me well for the challenge at Southampton.


SETTING RECORDS IN SUNNY SOUTHAMPTON

It wasn’t always my aim to come to England but everyone thinks about the Premier League because it is one of the strongest leagues in the world.

You want to show yourself in the strongest league and this was the right moment.

I knew back in 2014 that Ronald Koeman really wanted me. Southampton are a nice club with great supporters and I came here with a lot of new players in that summer of 2014 and some people expected a lot from me, but that didn’t bother me because as a player you have to trust in your qualities and show yourself and help your club.

After 2014 we had the two most successful years in Southampton’s history. Everyone was proud of that and I was pleased to be a part of it.

I have so many great memories here at Southampton. I’m in my fourth season and I have a strong connection with the fans who sing my song and support me no matter what.

From the first moment they accepted me very well. I try my best to entertain and make them happy and to give them joy. A lot of people come to watch and support you as a player so you need to try to give them enjoyment. Ii try to entertain.

I live in a marina called Ocean Village in Southampton and it doesn’t feel like you’re in England. When you say to people “oh, I live in England” everyone is like “it is rainy and cold there, why are you doing that?”

But Southampton is not like that. It is not like the rest of England. Here the weather is very good (at least compared to the rest of England!) and every day I am happy for that. Trust me.

So far we’ve had a lot of success but when I sit back and think about all of the good times we’ve had since I arrived, my winning goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United back in 2015 is the best.

We hadn’t beaten United away from home for 28 years and it was my first time playing at Old Trafford. I will never forget that moment. Ever.

Our aim here at Southampton, and my aim, is to get us back to Europe.

It is very important for us. Just as important is another good run in the cup, just like when we went to Wembley last season and lost to Manchester United. I don’t have any regrets about the League Cup final. None of us do. We did our best and I think we should have beat Manchester United. Anybody watching would have said that. We were unlucky. Sometimes, that’s football.

Someone told me earlier that a year ago today we were getting ready to play against Inter Milan in the Europa League at the San Siro. Wow. Time flies. We have to get back to playing in big games like that.

It will be hard to keep improving every year because there are so many quality teams in the Premier League but that is my main focus.

Well, that and my two kids. People say it a lot, but being a father has changed me as a person and I live a different kind of life. I am very happy with my life and my two children. I enjoy every moment with them.

I know on the pitch I can seem a little on edge. I’m a fierce competitor. Off the pitch I am easy going and I relax more. A lot more. Honest.

On the pitch I’m sharp and I show my emotions a lot more. I’ve always been like that, wearing my heart on my sleeve. On the pitch I want to win. We all do. We give everything for our team. We are all winners and we want to win every single game.

Every training session. Every game. Even when I play cards… I have to win. It is interesting that only this makes me happy. If you want to learn one thing about me from reading this, it is that I do not like to lose. Nobody likes to lose, but especially me. It is difficult to accept.

When some of the players play table tennis or basketball, I have to be the best. I can’t stand losing. I’ll throw things and get upset because I just want to win. It’s simple.

My teammates know that and some of the players I’m closest with, like Cedric Soares, will tell you that.

Sometimes Cedric and I go up to London on our days off and hang out and have dinner but with two young kids, I spend a lot of time with my family. I’m just looking forward to meeting Cedric in the World Cup if Serbia play Portugal. We owe him one. Portugal beat us in the qualifying for the European Championships. I want revenge and on the pitch I’d be in his ear all of the time. I wouldn’t stop.

I’d enjoy that…


WORLD CUP DREAM COMES TRUE

After reaching the World Cup last week, our first time as a nation since 2010, Serbia is fresh in my mind.

Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of in my career is to be the reigning player of the year in Serbia.

When I look at some of the past winners, Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Vidic, Dejan Stankovic and guys like Mijatovic, it makes me very happy to be in that kind of company. It proved to me how much respect people in Serbia had for me after goals and assists for the national team and also what I’ve achieved here at Southampton.

This award motivates me to get better and better.

And the fact that I will hopefully be heading to the 2018 World Cup with Serbia, the first major tournament of my career, it is an incredible feeling. Even now when I look back at photos from the night we sealed qualification in Belgrade against Georgia, it makes me emotional.

When I look at the photo below, I get emotional. I was just so happy. Even though I’m crying.

Going into that final game of qualifying, as a team we were under the biggest amount of pressure I’ve ever felt with the national team.

If we didn’t win that game against Georgia and qualify for the World Cup, I think they would have taken our passports away and told us we could not come back any more! It was like that. Seriously.

Those games like that, where it is so incredibly important, we are not a country that goes to every tournament, so it was a huge success for all of us.

I’m already 28, so for my national team career this is massive because playing at a World Cup is something everyone remembers. To seal the qualification in Belgrade, in front of our own fans, it is something I will always remember. The celebrations that night were quite special…

It is something I will never forget but hopefully there are many memorable moments to come both with Serbia and Southampton.

Portugal vs Switzerland: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Portugal and Switzerland meet Tuesday with a 2022 World Cup quarterfinal berth on the line in Lusail.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portuguese have a EURO during his tenure with the team but have never won the World Cup. That, of course, can change this month with Bruno Fernandes now the focal point of the attack.

STREAM LIVE PORTUGAL v SWITZERLAND

Switzerland, meanwhile, will feel it has as good a chance as any to make a run in the tournament having beaten Cameroon and Serbia while staying within a goal of world No. 1 Brazil in a close group stage loss.

Portugal opened the tournament with a slim and thrilling 3-2 win over Ghana, then topping Uruguay 2-0 before further dooming the Uruguayan side by falling 2-1 to South Korea in Al Rayyan

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Here is everything you need for Portugal vs Switzerland.


How to watch Portugal vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Dec. 6
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Portugal’s complete team is something to behold as Ruben Dias, Ruben Neves, and Bruno Fernandes give the side a robust spine that can be topped just as robustly by Cristiano Ronaldo when the great player is at his best in terms of defying the age 37.

The Swiss have seen Breel Embolo as a threat up top but the backs and midfield have so many tough nuts to crack with Granit Xhaka operating atop Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schar.


Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler

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Morocco vs Spain: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Morocco and Spain clash in a mouth-watering last 16 clash as the exciting Moroccan side will fancy their chances of causing an upset.

Remember: there is just 8 miles between Spain and Morocco and there is a lot of shared history and rivalry between these two nations.

STREAM LIVE MOROCCO v SPAIN

After winning Group F and going unbeaten, Morocco have been a pleasant surprise at this tournament. They have a talented core and their relatively new head coach Walid Regragui has done a superb job to knit them together as a unit and they have been so tough to break down.

As for Spain, they started the World Cup in stunning fashion with that 7-0 win against Costa Rica but their performances in a draw against Germany and a defeat against Japan left a lot to be desired. After finishing as runners up in Group E, Luis Enrique will be wary of an upset here as his side will have plenty of the ball but they have to regain their clinical edge.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Morocco vs Spain. 


How to watch Morocco vs Spain live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, December 6 
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Morocco’s stars have shone at this World Cup with Hakim Ziyech so dangerous in attack, plus Achraf Hakimi exceptional at right back, while Sofyan Amrabat has been a rock in central midfield and Romain Saiss has led by example in defense. The main thing to love about this Morocco side is their unity and they are so tough to play against and are very well-organized. But when they get the chance to get on the ball, they are direct and their wide players come to life quickly.

Spain’s talents are well known as Gavi and Pedri run the show in midfield but Enrique needs more from his attackers. Morata has finished off chances well so far but the likes of Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio and Ansu Fati need to kick on if Spain are going to make a deep run in this tournament.


Morocco quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss, Hakim Ziyech
At the 2022 World Cup – Won Group F with 7 points from 9 (+3 GD)

Spain quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 7
World Cup titles: 1 (2010)
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Luis Enrique
Key players: Rodri, Pedri, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba
At the 2022 World Cup – Finished second in Group E with 4 points (+6 GD)


Brazil turns on samba style, dances into World Cup quarterfinals

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Five-time world champions Brazil turned in a five-star performance as they dismantled South Korea 4-1 in the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup on Monday.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

Up next for Brazil is a quarterfinal clash with Croatia, who survived 120 minutes and penalty kicks to beat Japan earlier on Monday.

The goals came early, they came often, and they came in style.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring in the 7th, with an exquisite, composed finish through a sea of bodies and Neymar, who returned from the ankle injury he suffered 11 days earlier, made it 2-0 from the penalty spot just six minutes later. That’s when the samba style came out, with the game effectively already in hand and 77 minutes of must-watch television entertainment left to deliver.

Richarlison, who already scored the probable goal of the tournament in Brazil’s opener, perhaps one-upped himself with a sensational piece of flair and skill (and a decent bit of passing from some equally brilliant teammates), making it 3-0 just before the half-hour mark and reminding the rest of the world that Brazil were pre-World Cup favorites for a reason.

Lucas Paqueta got goal no. 4 after another sensational, liquid counter-attack of yellow shirts washing forward in numbers. Vinicius lifted the final ball over a crowd and picked out the West Ham midfielder, who applied the perfect finish with the inside of his right foot.

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Paik Seung-Ho scored a fantastic consolation goal with 15 minutes left in the second half, but that was the extent of South Korea’s joy, as they come up short of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since co-hosting the World Cup in 2002, when they went to the semifinals.

Brazil vs South Korea
Photo: FotMob.com

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How to watch Brazil vs South Korea live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Monday Dec. 5
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Well, first off: Neymar. One of Brazil’s all-time heroes is missing a World Cup from his resume and rightly or wrongly, that’s a marker as to whether the player will be considered one of the best Brazilians to ever do it. When healthy he’s among the five best attackers in the world. But how healthy is he? And how much can Richarlison, Vinicius Jr. and company take pressure off the oft-fouled Neymar?

South Korea will have hope that Heung-min Son’s slow tournament is on the upswing after the Tottenham star played well late in delivering the win over Portugal to seal a group stage place. Look out for 26-year-old Napoli center back Min-jae Kim, whose name is dancing through the Premier League transfer rumor mill with renewed vigor following strong performances in Qatar.


Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

South Korea quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 28
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Paulo Bento
Key players: Heung-min Son, Young-gwon Kim, In-beom Hwang, Woo-yeong Jeong

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Croatia eliminates Japan in 2022 World Cup’s first penalty shootout

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Croatia is through to the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup after defeating Japan in the tournament’s first penalty shootout (1-1 AET, 3-1 PKs) on Monday.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

After reaching the knockout rounds just once in their first five World Cup cycles as a nation, Croatia is through to the quarterfinals for the second straight tournament. Japan, meanwhile, will look to 2026 to achieve their first-ever knockout-round victory.

Scoring chances were at a premium in the first half, as each side managed just three shots, but the quality of chances was very high, evidenced by the xG numbers (0.74 for Japan and 0.61 for Croatia, again, on just three shots each). All three of Japan’s shots came from within seven yards of goal, as did two of Croatia’s three.

The breakthrough came, as so many goals have done at this World Cup, in the final moments just before the end of the first half. Japan won a free kick down the right side and though Croatia defended the initial ball in well enough, they didn’t manage to clear it and it fell to Maeda seven yards out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Perisic made it 1-1 with a sensational, long-ranger header in the 55th minute. Dejan Lovren played a dipping cross from deep and it found Perisic near the penalty spot, leaving the Tottenham utilityman with so much still to do. The ball bounced once, just in front of the goalkeeper, beating with him both power and precision to the bottom corner.

Dominik Livakovic began the penalty shootout with two straight saves, first denying Takumi Minamino, and then Kaoru Mitoma. 2-0 to Japan after two rounds. Marko Livaja put Croatia’s third attempt off the post, but Livakovic followed that up with save no. 3 against Maya Yoshida. Mario Pasalic converted to make it 3-1 to Croatia after four rounds.

Runners-up in 2018, Croatia into the round of 8 in 2022.

Japan vs Croatia
Photo: FotMob.com

[ MORE: World Cup schedule | World Cup odds ]

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How to watch Japan vs Croatia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Monday, December 5
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan’s comeback wins against Germany and Spain have been a joy to watch and anybody who watched them before this tournament will not be that surprised. Moriyasu has created a squad which has a total ‘team first’ mentality and so many players are stepping up to deliver in midfield and attack. From Maya Yoshida captaining the side and dominating at center back to Mitoma, Doan, Endo and Tanaka dazzling in midfield and attack whenever they feature, this is a joy to watch. The energy Japan plays with is dizzying and they will create plenty of chances against Croatia. The big question: can they be more clinical?

As for Croatia, the likes of Dejan Lovren, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic have been here before. They exude confidence and Josko Gvardiol is a fine young center back and the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic add extra class. This is a side which always seems to overdeliver and they will be thinking another deep run at the World Cup is on the cards. Surely they can’t get to the final again, right?


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ritsu Doan
At the 2022 World Cup – Won Group E with 6 points (+1 GD)

Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic
At the 2022 World Cup – Finished second in Group F with 5 points (+3 GD)