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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 23, 2006

Underdog status suits S&M, says Kezman

PALIC, Serbia and Montenegro, May 23 (Reuters) - Serbia and Montenegro striker Mateja Kezman says the role of underdog will suit his team at the World Cup.

"We are really happy there is no pressure this time because we have been drawn in the toughest group in the tournament with Argentina, the Netherlands and Ivory Coast," Kezman told reporters on Tuesday.

"I know the Dutch will be wary of us, I know their players very well and I am sure they won't underestimate us because we have been declared the group's dark horses.

"But we must also keep in mind that getting past the group stage will be no easy task, although I am confident we have the ability to get through. I think we will perform well and make our fans proud."

Atletico Madrid striker Kezman enjoyed the scorching heat in the Tuesday's morning training session that focused on fitness tests after a long season for most of the World Cup squad members.

"I have been in sunny Madrid for a year now and it really feels good after several rainy years in the Netherlands and England," said the former Chelsea player.

"I feel very relaxed and raring to go, we are looking forward to what should be a great World Cup in Germany and want to enjoy every minute of it.

"FIFA has made a great decision to allow all players competing in the tournament a week off.

"We have recharged our batteries and cleared our heads, the players who earn their bread in cooler climates struggled a bit today but they will be fine because the team spirit is great."

Fellow striker Danijel Ljuboja, who plays for German club VfB Stuttgart, predicted that hosts Germany would go far in the competition.

"They have a very good side and being the host nation, they certainly have the ability to go very far. Their own fans expect them to reach the final," he said.

"I know for a fact that the German players have a lot of respect for us because we finished top of our qualifying group ahead of Spain. We must take Ivory Coast very seriously, not to mention the Argentines and the Netherlands."

Serbia and Montenegro open their campaign against the Netherlands on June 11, take on Argentina on June 16 and complete their group fixtures against Ivory Coast on June 21.

They will compete in Germany as a unified team even though Montenegro voted for independence from the state union with Serbia on Sunday in a referendum.

FIFA had instructed Serbia and Montenegro to compete as a unified team in Germany regardless of the referendum outcome in order to avoid complicating the World Cup.

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