Prior to the Serbia game, Wales had lost all three fixtures under new manager Chris Coleman. The fixtures against Mexico and Bosnia were only friendlies, and tough fixtures, but in each game Wales looked devoid of inspiration and shape, and generally lacked the positional discipline that had been instilled by previous manager Gary Speed. Wales’ first World Cup Qualifier against Belgium was better; up until James Collins’ dismissal for a reckless lunge on the impressive Guillaume Gillet, they had looked like causing Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ problems. However, 10 men against the third most expensive international team in the world inevitably ended in defeat; Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen sealing the victory with a thunderous left-footed drive from outside the box.
The performance against Belgium had renewed some optimism for Welsh fans, but Aleksandar Kolarov’s stunning free kick, and first international goal for Serbia, silenced the small travelling contingent of Welsh fans. Soon after it was 2-0, with woeful defending allowing Tosic to slot in from close range. Gareth Bale provided a glimmer of hope with an unstoppable, swerving free kick from 25 yards, and his tireless performance was the only positive for Wales. Second half goals from Djuricic, Tadic, Sulejmani, and Chelsea’s impressive Branislav Ivanovic, the Serbian captain, completed the rout. Wales’ list of missing internationals is an impressive one, but it is no excuse for the ‘dreadful performance’ in Vojvodina, as described by the manager himself. Coleman had expressed confidence that his side could qualify for their first major finals since 1958, but it is becoming quite apparent that although the manager is saying the right things off the pitch, he struggling to orchestrate what happens on it. Defeats to Belgium and Serbia are big setbacks, especially with Croatia yet to play. Miracles aside, this campaign is already a write off.