Bafana friendly a learning curve for Serbians

BELGRADE - Serbia's national soccer side will use the August 12 friendly against Bafana Bafana to familiarise themselves with the South African environment before the 2010 Fifa World Cup finals, an event they are very confident of qualifying for.

The Serbians are in the driver's seat to qualify as they lead Group 7 of the European qualifiers with 12 points, relegating 1998 World Cup finals hosts and champions France to second spot on 10 points.

Serbia and France meet on September 9 in Belgrade and a win could see the Radomir Antic-guided side qualify for the finals in South Africa.

"Our next two home games against France and Romania are like finals on the road to South Africa in 2010. We're only a few steps away from realising our biggest dream of being part of the World Cup finals," said an upbeat Antic, a former Yugoslavia defender.

The 60-year-old no-nonsense mentor was unveiled as new coach of Serbia after the dismissal of Miroslav Djukic in the wake of their under-23 side's dismal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Since then, Antic has been able to successfully transform Serbia into a force to be reckoned with.

Serbia and Montenegro put in a disappointing showing at Germany 2006, where they lost all their first-round matches despite having been the surprise package of the qualifiers. Serbia, now ranked 14th by Fifa, separated from Montenegro in June 2006.

Bafana are ranked 70th by Fifa and team manager Sipho Nkumane is confident they will not disappoint South Africa.

"We have laid a solid foundation with the Confederations Cup, where many South Africans were impressed with the level of commitment by Bafana Bafana. There is no turning back," Nkumane said.

"We want to build a team that the entire country will be proud of in 2010 and beyond."