World Cup Player to Watch: Part Three
Serbia and Montenegro – Nikola Zigic
While no one is a lock to advance, there are two groups that will prove more difficult to emerge from than the others. Group E with Italy, USA, Ghana and Czech Republic squads has been dubbed a “group of death”. Vying equally hard for that title is Group C, which features Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia and Montenegro and Cote D’Ivoire.
While Argentina and Netherlands are the glamour sides of the group, Serbia and Montenegro have the potential to be the dark horse team of the tournament. They possess an organized and physically intimidating back four that only allowed a single goal in 10 WC qualifying (conceded in a 1-1 draw with Spain).
Offensively and visually, the focus is on 6′ 8″ giant Nikola Zigic, who will be counted on to provide goals and create chances for others. An old-school centre-forward, his main strength is obviously in being a target man for long aerial passes and crosses into the box. There is no doubting his heading ability as he wins almost everything knocked his way but he also possesses solid passing skills and can unleash a long range bomb when called upon. (For evidence of this check out this video of his performance against AS Roma in the UEFA Cup).
Zigic played for Red Star Belgrade during this past season and his play caught the eye of a number of bigger European clubs including West Ham, Marseille and Hamburg. Zigic has played the bulk of his club football in Serbia & Montenegro, except for an unsuccessful loan spell at French club Saint-Etienne in 2002-03.
Zigic is often compared to Czech Republic target man Jan Koller and I feel the comparison is a very good one. Like Koller, Zigic is deceptively skilled and gives his coach the ability to play different formations knowing that Zigic will get the job done whether as a lone target man or knocking down passes for national team strike partner Mateja Kezman.