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Aug 28, 2006

Clemente wants perfect start for Serbia in qualifiers

BELGRADE, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Serbia's Spanish coach Javier Clemente said he expected the team to win their opening Euro 2008 Group A qualifiers against Azerbaijan on Saturday and Poland on September 6.

'We want a maximum six points from the opening two matches against the Azeris at home and Poland in Warsaw,' Clemente told a news conference on Monday.

'The match against Azerbaijan will be tricky because we will be playing in an empty stadium and the fans always lift players to produce their best performance,' he said.

Serbia have been ordered to play one match behind closed doors after crowd trouble in the final World Cup qualifier against Bosnia in Belgrade last October.

Serbia & Montenegro played as a unified team at the World Cup and finalised their split last month, allowing Serbia to enter the Euro 2008 qualifiers on its own while Montenegro is yet to gain international soccer recognition.

Clemente, who took over from Ilija Petkovic after a poor World Cup, left few veterans in a youthful new-look side that rewarded him with an impressive 3-1 friendly win against the Czech Republic on Aug. 16.

'That was a good performance but we still have a lot of work to do. The team needs to get into a steady rhythm while the young players have to find their feet quickly,' he said.

'The clash with Poland is going to be a real test because they are strong defensively and very dangerous on the break. We'll think about them next week.'

The 56-year-old Basque said he regretted keeper Dragoslav Jevric's decision to retire from international football after being left on the bench for the match against the Czechs.

'I respect Jevric very much and I regret that he chose to walk away like that. I said before that no one is automatically entitled to a place in the first team,' he said.

'Anyone with grievances is free to address the entire team in the dressing room and Jevric didn't do that. It is my decision only who plays.'

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