The Yugoslav National Team: A Brief History

Yugoslavia would be World Cup winning material if the nation still existed today. When the Yugoslavia split in 1992, five new national teams were created:
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Macedonia
  • Serbia & Montenegro, which later split and became 2 new national teams, Serbia and Montenegro.
The Yugoslavian National Team could select players from a vast area of the Baltic states, an area in modern times which consists of 7 countries. Only the USSR National Team had a greater catchment area of where it could recruit players. If the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was still in existence then players such as Vidic, Modric, Srna, Jovetic, Vucinic, Eduardo, Matavz etc. could be playing together in the same national team.

The Yugoslavia National team were a force in national football. They reached the final of the European Championships twice in the 1960s, most notably in 1968 when all that stood in Yugoslavia’s way to winning the trophy was a replay. They battled with Italy and drew 1-1 after extra-time in an era before penalty-shootouts were created, the championship was decided by the throw of a second leg between the two with Italy emerging victorious 2-0.
National Team, 1968
 In 1962 they were the 4th best national team in the World after finishing fourth at the World Cup. No mean feat for a nation from Eastern Europe, especially as the more successful teams were mostly based in South America and Western Europe at the time. They, as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia came 3rd in the first ever World Cup in 1930. This was not decided in a third place play-off but Yugoslavia were awarded the Bronze Medal that denoted the team had finished third.

The nation had an Olympic record to be proud of, winning one Gold Medal, three silver medals and one bronze medal. The Bronze medal was won in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, while the three Silvers and one Gold were won in four consecutive Olympics from 1948 - 1960. The Gold medal being won in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Their first international was against Czechoslovakia at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. They lost the game 7-0. The first eleven players to wear a Yugoslavian National team shirt in a competitive match were:
  • Dragutin Vrđuka
  • Vjekoslav Župančić
  • Jaroslav Šifer
  • Stanko Tavčar
  • Slavin Cindrić
  • Rudolf Rupec
  • Dragutin Vragović
  • Artur Dubravčić
  • Emil Perška
  • Ivan Granec
  • Jovan Ružić
They were first known as Jugoslovenski Nogometni Savez but renamed to Yugoslavia in 1929. After their 1919 formation the team's headquarters was based in Zagreb but was now moved to Belgrade. In their first World Cup match in the Parque Central Stadium, Montevideo, Yugoslavia recorded a historic 2-1 victory against Brazil. The national team consisted of players from Serbian clubs afternd the Croatian sub association forbid Croatian players from competing in the World Cup squad in protest of the relocation of the headquarters from Zagreb to Belgrade.
1952 Olympic Final against the Mighty Magyars
In the 1952 Olympics, Yugoslavia were runners-up, second only to the great Hungary side that had the great Ferenc Puskas in their side. However, there was a scare that nearly caused them to be eliminated in the first round against the USSR. With 75 minutes played, they were 5-1 up and decided to slow down and see the game out. However, this complacency allowed the USSR to pull of a miracle and score four goals meaning the game finished 5-5. Yugoslavia, however, won the replay.

Football in Yugoslavia was disrupted by World War Two, but after the war the Yugoslav Federation was reconstituted. The Federation was one of the founding members of UEFA and in 1976 Yugoslavia hosted the European Championships, with games played in Belgrade and Zagreb. Yugoslavia lost both games and finished last in the tournament.( The 1976 tournament was the last to only include 4 teams in the finals)

Once the Cold War ended the communist regime came to an abrupt end due to democratic areas wanting greater freedoms. In the friendly match Yugoslavia vs. Netherlands, Croatians in Zagreb booed the Yugoslav players and anthem as well as waving Dutch flags due to their similarity to the Croatian colours. When Yugoslavia was split into different democratic nations, the national team was banned from Euro 92, Denmark took their place and won the competition. It was announced that Yugoslavia would be banned on 31 May 1992, 10 days before the competition started. 
Predrag Mijatovic

Two years later Yugoslavia had been drawn as a team from pot 1, for Group 5 of the European zone for the 1994 World Cup Qualification stage. Yugoslavia were banned from this competition, which left the group without a top team, meaning it was more competitive and Greece and Russia qualified. The Yugoslavia name was still carried by the national team of Serbia & Montenegro until 2003, when they decided to just compete in future as Serbia & Montenegro.

The Yugoslavia player with the most appearances for the national team was Dragan Džajić, who appeared 85 times and had a goal tally of 23. His career for Yugoslavia started in 1964 and ended in 1979, a total of 15 years.

The player with the highest goal tally is Stjepan Bobek, his goal tally of 38 goals was recorded in 63 appearances during 1946-1956

As you can see the history of the Yugoslav National Team is very interesting. They would be a great team if they still existed and surely would have won a major international competition if they had not have split, albeit for the better, in 1992.


This article was kindly written for us by Adam Dunwoodie - a 17-year-old aspiring football writer:-
Follow him on Twitter here - @adunwoodie1995

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