Uncapped Ergic in Serbia & Montenegro squad
BELGRADE, May 15 (Reuters) - Uncapped Basel midfielder Ivan Ergic was a surprise inclusion in Serbia and Montenegro's World Cup squad announced by manager Ilija Petkovic on Monday.
He was named in the 23-man squad after Petkovic watched him several times before deciding that the 25-year-old, who battled mononucleosis for two years, was the best cover for Sasa Ilic and Zvonimir Vukic.
'He is a versatile player and we can rotate around the midfield but, most importantly, he is ideal cover for playmakers Zvonimir Vukic and Sasa Ilic,' Petkovic told reporters.
Ergic had a fantastic season for his Swiss club before he was struck down by illness and is a big bonus for the squad now that he has fully recovered.
There were no other surprises as Petkovic stuck by the squad that helped Serbia and Montenegro win their qualifying group with six wins and four draws, having conceded only one goal.
Vladimir Stojkovic, the only other debutant, has been called up as the expected third-choice goalkeeper after an impressive season with the under-21 national team and Red Star Belgrade, prompting a transfer to French Ligue 1 side Nantes on Saturday.
The defence will be marshalled by the experienced Mladen Krstajic and Goran Gavrancic as well as Manchester United centre back Nemanja Vidic, who will be sorely missed through suspension in their opening Group C match against the Netherlands.
Petkovic said he had put his faith in the players who had taken the country through the qualifying campaign in style to reach the month-long finals in Germany, which start on June 9.
'This group of players will show unity and determination and hopefully give the whole nation plenty to cheer about. We can't wait for the finals to begin and I can say this is the biggest test of my career as manager,' he said.
'I have unreserved faith in the lads as each and every one of them has earned a place in the squad through hard work and the performances in the qualifying campaign.'
The experienced midfield will rely on ball winners Albert Nadj and Igor Duljaj as well as creative players like Dejan Stankovic and Predrag Djordjevic while Vukic, Ilic and Ognjen Koroman are expected to provide extra bite going forward.
Striker Savo Milosevic, the most capped player in the country's history with 97 appearances, will provide a wealth of experience in what is surely his last World Cup.
The 32-year old Osasuna marksman joins Stankovic as the only players in the squad to feature at the 1998 World Cup in France and this time he is more likely to be used as a substitute for the younger duo of Nikola Zigic and Mateja Kezman.
Left-sided forward Danijel Ljuboja, who can play up front or in a deeper role behind the strikers, is a welcome addition while Mirko Vucinic is preferred to several more experienced candidates after outstanding performances for the under-21s.
Serbia and Montenegro face twice world champions Argentina and this year's African Nations Cup finalists Ivory Coast as well as the Netherlands in Group C.
Goalkeepers: Dragoslav Jevric (Anakaraspor), Oliver Kovacevic (CSKA Sofia), Vladimir Stojkovic (Nantes)
Defenders: Goran Gavrancic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivica Dragutinovic (Sevilla), Mladen Krstajic (Schalke), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Milan Dudic (Red Star Belgrade), Nenad Djordjevic (Partizan Belgrade), Dusan Basta (Red Star Belgrade)
Midfielders: Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan), Igor Duljaj (Shakhtar Donetsk), Predrag Djordjevic (Olympiakos Piraeus), Ognjen Koroman (Portsmouth), Albert Nadj (Partizan Belgrade), Sasa Ilic (Galatasaray), Zvonimir Vukic (Partizan Belgrade), Ivan Ergic (Basel)
Forwards: Savo Milosevic (Osasuna), Mateja Kezman (Atletico Madrid), Nikola Zigic (Red Star Belgrade), Danijel Ljuboja (VFB Stuttgart), Mirko Vucinic (Lecce)