BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia named Ljubisa Tumbakovic as their new manager on Monday and the 66-year-old former Montenegro boss will make his debut against European champions Portugal in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Sept. 7.
Tumbakovic was picked to replace Mladen Krstajic, after a patchy start to Serbia’s Group B campaign, the Balkan nation’s football association (FSS) said on its official website (www.fss.rs).
Third-placed Serbia have four points from three games and the unpopular Krstajic was shown the door after a 4-1 home win over Lithuania failed to save his job in the wake of a 5-0 drubbing by Ukraine three days earlier.
Ukraine top the group with 10 points from four games, followed by Luxembourg who have four from as many matches.
Fourth-placed Portugal have two points from two games and their visit to Belgrade could turn out to be a qualification dogfight with both sides desperately needing a win.
Tumbakovic, who won six Serbian league titles with Partizan Belgrade before he was named the Montenegro boss in 2016, was sacked by the Adriatic republic’s FA in June after boycotting their home qualifier with Kosovo.
Montenegrin media reported that Tumbakovic came under strong pressure from fans in his native Serbia to skip the game with Kosovo as two of Montenegro’s Serbian-born players, Filip Stojkovic and Mirko Ivanic, also pulled out.
Kosovo, whose population is more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised as a sovereign nation by more than 110 countries.
A group of nations, including Serbia, China, five EU members and Russia, refuse to recognise it.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Alison Williams)