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Serbia-Montenegro Looks Forward to World Cup, Despite Referendum

As the 2006 World Cup in Germany approaches, the players for Serbia and Montenegro continue their training, despite a looming referendum on independence in Montenegro. The vote will not affect Serbia and Montenegro's World Cup chances in June.

While Montenegrins go to the polls May 21 to vote on their political future, their short-term future on the football pitch is more clearly-defined.

Serbia and Montenegro is set to compete in the World Cup in June, and Aleksandar Boskovic of the Serbian Football Association says the players are committed to competing together, regardless of the referendum's outcome. "Everybody from Serbia and Montenegro are just not thinking about politics now," he says. "Guys and players from our national team and our association and also both republics' associations, anybody is just thinking about our best look for the World Cup."

While the team will play together at the 2006 World Cup, Boskovic says Montenegro's independence referendum could bring change in the future. The Montenegrins are expected to vote for independence.

But, for now, he says the players are looking forward to competing in the world's most-followed sporting event. After a surprising undefeated run through the final qualification round, Serbia and Montenegro finds itself grouped with two of the top-five ranked teams in the world in the Netherlands and Argentina. African Cup finalist Ivory Coast rounds out the pool.

Boskovic jokingly admits the draw poses a challenge to Serbia and Montenegro. "We want to change Ivory Coast for Brazil," he said, "because after that, we can say that we have a really small World Cup in one group, and for us, that would be really OK."

But he says Serbia and Montenegro has hope entering the tournament. "On that field, we will try to find light, that is all," he said.

Serbia and Montenegro opens its World Cup play against the Netherlands June 11 in Leipzig.