BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s Football Association (FSS) has appealed to fans to be on their best behaviour during the national team’s Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Italy on Oct. 7.
The reverse fixture in Genoa last October was abandoned after six minutes when visiting Serbia fans caused a riot. Italy were awarded a 3-0 walkover while Serbia had to play their home group game against Northern Ireland behind closed doors.
Serbia fans attacked their own team bus before kickoff, clashed with riot police and threw flares at home fans and players in the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
“The fixture has been qualified as a high-risk match by UEFA and we hereby appeal to all those who attend it to adhere to the fair-play code of conduct,” FSS spokesman Aleksandar Boskovic told a news conference on Thursday.
”Our fans need to avoid any potential situation which might provoke trouble because at the end of the day the team will suffer from the resultant punishment.
“We have to show Europe and UEFA’s many officials who will be supervising the game that our fans come to football grounds to enjoy the game.”
Serbian soccer has been rife with violence in the past 20 years, since the former Yugoslavia’s violent break-up, and fights between rival fans have resulted in several deaths as well as hundreds of serious injuries.
The Italy match will also be a stern test for Serbia on the pitch after they got their patchy Group C campaign back on track with two wins against Northern Ireland and a 3-1 home defeat of the Faroe Islands.
A win against already qualified Italy would seal a play-off berth for Serbia before their final match on Oct. 11 away to former fellow Yugoslavs Slovenia, who still have a mathematical chance of clinching the runners-up spot.
“All the pressure will be on us because Italy are already through to next year’s finals in Poland and Ukraine, meaning that they will come here relaxed and play their best football,” Serbia coach Vladimir Petrovic said.
”Unfortunately for us, they have peaked in the latter stages of the qualifiers and were very impressive in a recent 2-1 win over world champions Spain in a friendly.
“We know that victory would mean job done but we can’t throw caution to the wind because we could be punished, so I wouldn’t be entirely unhappy with a draw,” said Petrovic after naming his 27-man squad.
Injured defenders Nemanja Vidic and Milan Bisevac were included in the list but will almost certainly miss the Italy game and former Arsenal midfielder Petrovic has called up uncapped Marko Simic and Luka Milivojevic as cover.
“We are hoping to have Vidic back for the Slovenia game although the odds are slim; on the other hand it is encouraging to see some players like Juventus winger Milos Krasic rediscover their good form,” he said.
Goalkeepers: Bojan Jorgacevic (Ghent), Damir Kahriman (Tavriya Simferopol), Bojan Saranov (Maccabi Haifa).
Defenders: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Nenad Tomovic (Lecce), Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Milan Bisaevac (Paris St. Germain), Marko Simic (BATE Borisov), Milan Vilotic (Red Star Belgrade), Slobodan Rajkovic (Hamburg SV), Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City), Dusko Tosic (Betis).
Midfielders: Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan), Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Vfb Stuttgart), Radosav Petrovic (Blackburn Rovers), Ljubomir Fejsa (Olympiakos Piraeus), Milos Ninkovic (Dynamo Kiev), Luka Milivojevic (Rad Belgrade), Milos Krasic (Juventus), Nemanja Tomic (Partizan Belgrade), Zoran Tosic (CSKA Moscow), Adem Ljajic (Fiorentina), Milan Jovanovic (Anderlecht).
Forwards: Marko Pantelic (Olympiakos Piraeus), Nikola Zigic (Birmingham), Dragan Mrdja (Sion).
(Editing by Clare Fallon. To comment on this story email email@example.com)