Iwan Roberts column: Hope evaporates as poor Wales implode

A demoralising defeat at the hands of Serbia in Novi Sad has left Welsh hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil all but over.

The sense of hope that surrounded this Welsh World Cup qualifying bid is fast evaporating, and after this latest defeat fans will have lost all confidence in the side.

Friday night's defeat by Belgium was disappointing, but positives could be taken in the way the team defended and conducted themselves given the circumstances of James Collins' early sending off and a lengthy injury list.

Going into the trip to Serbia, getting the first points on the board was a must; Wales didn't want to start this campaign in a similar vein to the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

The return of the integral Joe Allen was the only change for Wales, allowing Ashley Williams to drop back into his favoured position of centre-half.

Serbia, who drew with Scotland in their opening group game, once again put out a very young and inexperienced starting XI, with only five of the starters having more than 10 caps and the average age of the squad registering at 24-years-old.

Fifa 2014 World Cup qualifying group A

Played Won Points

Belgium

2

1

4

Croatia

2

1

4

Serbia

2

1

4

Scotland

2

0

2

Macedonia

2

0

1

Wales

2

0

0

Sinisa Mihajlovic set his side up in a fluid 4-5-1 formation, the attacking midfield options of Zoran Tosic and Lazar Markovic given almost free roles, while the 20-year-old Filip Djuricic led the line.

Wales actually started the game positively, retaining possession reasonably well and playing intelligent diagonal balls up to Steve Morison, who won his fare share of headers in the opening minutes.

Sadly this was as good as it was going to get for the Welsh boys.

You could see the confidence slowly drain away from the Welsh players after Aleksander Kolarov's sublime 25-yard free-kick opener on 16 minutes.

Weak and indecisive challenges then allowed Kolarov to set up the second for Zoran Tosic. Such early goals knocked the stuffing out of Wales and only served to encourage the Serbian side, who were first to every ball and being given far too much time in possession.

Gareth Bale's superbly taken free-kick momentarily offered a bit of hope, but this was to be all but destroyed on the stroke of half time as Djuricic capitalised on sloppy and hesitant defending to give Serbia a 3-1 half-time lead.

The second half followed much of the same pattern, Serbia dominating the midfield all too easily with the movement and interplay of Tadic and Tosic wreaking all sorts of havoc across the Welsh backline.

The support offered by full-backs Kolarov and Ivanovic going forward was excellent at times and gave the Serbian attacks a different dimension. It was too much for the Welsh defence to handle.

Three more goals were scored by the home side in the second half to cap off what was a terribly poor performance from Wales.

Serbia were simply far superior in all departments, looking sharper and more composed all over the pitch.

However, although we've made the worst possible start, there is still a long way to go in this qualifying campaign.

The players will need to regroup over the next coming weeks and get the last few matches out of their system ready for the Scotland game in October, which is now quite simply a must win game.

Nevertheless, it is going to be a long way back from here for Chris Coleman's men.