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Serbia and Montenegro could go separate soccer ways

Written by: Staff
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BELGRADE, Mar 15 (Reuters) Serbia and Montenegro could play in the Euro 2008 qualifers as two separate teams if the state splits, the country's FA said today.

Montenegro, the smaller of the two republics, is scheduled to hold a referendum on May 21 to decide whether to remain a part of the union or become an independent nation.

''We are aware of the possibility and in no way do we wish to prejudice the outcome of this issue,'' FA spokesman Aleksandar Boskovic said.

''Whatever happens, we want to reach an amicable solution as the relations between the two football governing bodies of Serbia and Montenegro and the relations of both with the central body are outstanding,'' he added.

''We will cross that bridge when we come to it because right now, we are focused on doing well in the World Cup, where we will play as a single team,'' Boskovic said.

Recent public opinion polls suggest that a majority vote in favour of independence is not certain.

''The decision about what happens regarding the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign in case of a split is also up to the international football governing bodies,'' Boskovic said.

Serbia and Montenegro have been drawn in qualifying Group A for the 2008 competition, the only one of seven qualifying groups to comprise eight instead of seven teams.

Should the soccer federations split, one of the teams would probably need to be moved to another group, causing headaches for nations who have already worked out timetables for playing their fixtures. Qualifying games start on September 2.

FIFA, the world football governing body, has said that regardless of the referendum's outcome Serbia and Montenegro will be allowed to perform as a united team in this year's World Cup finals in Germany.

Their Group C rivals are The Netheralands, Argentina and Ivory Coast.

REUTERS PDS KN2127

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