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Serbia still looking for coach ahead of qualifiers

BELGRADE, July 16 (Reuters) - Serbia are without a manager a month before their first international match as an independent nation following the split with Montenegro.

Serbia meet the Czech Republic in a friendly in Prague on Aug. 16 before starting their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign in the only group with eight instead of seven teams.

Serbia, whose federation parted company with Montenegro earlier this month, have been drawn in group A with Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Finland, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

The two republics, the last remnants of the former Yugoslavia, played as a unified team at the June 9-July 9 World Cup finals in Germany after Montenegro voted for independence from Serbia in May.

Serbia & Montenegro disappointed at the World Cup, bowing out in the opening round after a 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands, a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Argentina and a 3-2 loss to Ivory Coast.

Coach Ilija Petkovic stepped down after the team's exit and Serbian Football Association (FSS) chief Zvezdan Terzic has been searching for a replacement since then.

'Valid candidates are hard to come by because we haven't got the financial resources to employ the likes of (Portugal coach) Luiz Felipe Scolari,' Terzic was quoted as saying by the daily Sportski Zurnal on Sunday.

'It has been only two weeks since we parted company with Montenegro and we are still clearing up the mess left behind. Selecting a new coach overnight won't help us get back on the rails and we need more time.'

According to Belgrade media, several candidates have turned down the job, including former German international Juergen Kohler and Ghana's Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic.

Terzic reportedly also tried to lure Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini and former Yugoslav international Sinisa Mihajlovic as his assistant but to no avail.

'We hope we will live up to expectations and sign a big name to coach our national soccer team. Serbia can wait for another 10 days or so,' Terzic said.