Spot-kick specialist Milivojevic aims for last-16 progression with Serbia

Luka Milivojevic's Serbia is grouped alongside Brazil, Costa Rica and Switzerland in the upcoming World Cup.

Serbia's Luka Milivojevic during the 2018 World Cup qualifier   -  Getty Images

 

Serbia's Luka Milivojevic possesses an enviable track record which would be welcome in among sides heading into the World Cup. Since his move to the English Premier League in January 2017, the Crystal Palace midfielder has converted nine penalties, while missing just once.

This particular attribute of Milivojevic's game is all the more remarkable owing to the fact that he had never taken a spot kick in his professional career before his move to Palace under former manager Sam Allardyce.

“I practised free-kicks a lot when Sam Allardyce was the manager and I was pretty successful in training,” the 27-year-old explained to FIFA.com. “I think we were struggling with penalties as we had missed some in the past, and in a meeting in front of all the players, the manager asked me if I was confident enough to take them.”

He answered his former boss with resounding success from the spot. During the 2017-18 campaign, Milivojevic finished as Palace's top goal-scorer with 10 goals to turnaround the club's fortunes in the league.

Milivojevic's partnership with Manchester United central midfielder Nemanja Matic will be key to allowing Serbia's forwards flourish.

The tough-tackling midfielder, who has 26 international caps to his name, admitted that progression from group E - including Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica - will be a tough challenge.

“When you're playing against Brazil, you’re playing against the best national team in the world. They’re going to be favourites to win the World Cup, but I’m very excited to play against them," he said.

Although, the expectations of making out of the group stages is high back home, Milivojevic preferred to play them down.

He said, “If we finish second in the group, that will be a huge success for our national team, and even if we do we might then have to play against Germany!"

If Serbia managed to sneak out of the tough group, Milivojevic's penalty-taking skills could come handy against a side which has won its last six penalty shoot-outs.

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