Serbia’s Mitrovic the lynchpin for Euro newcomers


Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, a prolific marksman at club level and among the top scorers in Euro 2024 qualifying, carries the hopes of a stuttering side who will rely heavily on their attacking firepower in a long overdue Euros debut.

Mitrovic comes into the tournament with 28 goals in 28 matches in the big-paying Saudi Pro League, beaten only by its poster boy Cristiano Ronaldo, and will need that form if Serbia are to stand any chance of reaching the knockout rounds.

The Eagles, in their first Euros as an independent nation, have tough rivals to contend with, drawn in Group C with Slovenia, 1992 champions Denmark, and England, runners-up in 2020 and among the favourites to win the title.

Mitrovic, 29, has much to prove in Germany after his shootout miss in a playoff with Scotland cost World Cup regulars Serbia a spot at Euro 2020, a fourth straight failure to qualify.

It compounded what was already a difficult time for Mitrovic, who was struggling to get games and goals and saw his English club Fulham relegated from the Premier League.

But then came an astonishing turnaround, with Mitrovicrediscovering his scoring touch in the 2021-2022 campaign, netting 43 times in 46 matches to earn player of the season in the second-tier Championship and promotion for Fulham.

A year after his shootout miss, Mitrovic regained hero status for his country, scoring a 90th-minute winner against Portugal to send Serbia to the 2022 World Cup finals.

In ecstatic celebrations, Mitrovic was mobbed and found himself bottom of a pile of players. He later emerged from the dressing room to greet supporters dressed in his underwear and a Serbia flag.

“Payback time for Scotland, with interest,” he said of his feat.

“When you work hard, it’s only a matter of time before you get your reward.”

Mitrovic has an insatiable appetite for scoring, with 57 goals in 89 appearances for Serbia, and netted 109 times in 190 matches for Fulham overall.

He scored five in seven games in Euro 2024 qualifying, a third of his country’s total, proving he is the vital goal machine Serbia need to make their mark in Germany.

“It’s like a drug to me,” Mitrovic told The Athletic. “I love the feeling it creates, the passion to keep scoring. It’s a feeling that only the goalscorer knows.”

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