GRAZ: World Cup-bound Serbia gave their coach Mladen Krstajić plenty to worry about ahead of the tournament in Russia after a tepid performance in Monday’s 1-0 friendly defeat against a second-string Chile side.
Only two unexpected misses by substitute Ángelo Henríquez spared the Serbians from a heavier defeat, with centre-back Guillermo Maripán heading in an 89th-minute winner for Chile, who failed to qualify for the 32-nation tournament.
Krstajic fielded an experimental 4-2-3-1 formation which failed to have much effect, as their final passes kept going astray and the defense looked shaky every time the South American side came forward purposefully.
Right-back Antonio Rukavina looked particularly vulnerable and striker Aleksandar Mitrović was ineffective, leading to Serbia’s build-up play becoming slow and predictable.
Winger Nemanja Radonjić looked the only Serbian threat as he came close twice with shots from the edge of the penalty area, while Chile missed a string of chances at the other end.
Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković produced two fine saves to deny Felipe Mora and Diego Valdés before man of the match Junior Fernandes, who gave his markers a torrid time on either flank, set up a pair of sitters for Henríquez.
The former Dinamo Zagreb player missed a gaping goal from three metres in the 75th minute and shot wide with only Stojković to beat.
The Chileans were rewarded in the dying minutes for their more adventurous approach after Maripán rose above his marker to head home an inswinging José Bizama cross from the left.
Serbia will play their final warm-up game against Bolivia, also in Graz, on Saturday before flying to Russia where they face Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Brazil in Group E.