BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Dragan Stojkovic was hired Wednesday as coach of Serbia’s national soccer team, three weeks before the squad’s first qualifying match for the 2022 World Cup.

The 55-year-old Stojkovic replaces Ljubisa Tumbakovic, who was fired in December after the team failed to qualify for the European Championship in the playoffs.

Stojkovic was a skillful midfielder who made 84 appearances and scored 15 goals for Yugoslavia’s national team from 1983-2001.

Stojkovic played for Radnicki Nis, Red Star Belgrade, Marseille and Verona before joining Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1994, where he was coached by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

After ending his playing career in 2001, Stojkovic coached Nagoya for four years before taking over at Chinese club Guangzhou in 2020.

Serbia is scheduled to play Ireland in its opening qualifier on March 24. Portugal, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg are also in Group A.


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