Half-fit players, a leaky defence and a controversial flag that raised diplomatic tensions underlined yet another exit for Serbia in the group stage at the World Cup, proving that their resurgence earlier this year was nothing but a false dawn.
Under coach Dragan Stojkovic, Serbia were fancied to give their Group G opponents a run for their money having secured automatic qualification by forcing a talented Portugal side into a playoff to qualify for the World Cup.
With an encouraging showing in the Nations League earlier this year, Serbia were expected to finally break their World Cup group stage jinx having never reached the knockouts since the break-up of Yugoslavia.
But despite having two promising strikers in Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic, both of whom were in fine form in the league with Fulham and Juventus respectively, the two started together only in their final group game.
Mitrovic scored nine goals in the Premier League but an ankle injury severely hampered his preparations for the tournament as Serbia sweated over his availability while Vlahovic did not arrive in Doha 100 per cent.
When Mitrovic did make the starting line-up against Brazil in their opener, he was well off the pace and barely received service in a humbling 2-0 defeat by the pre-tournament favourites which immediately put Serbia on the backfoot.
While Serbia did net three goals against Cameroon, their defence was given a reality check when Vincent Aboubakar ghosted past their offside trap twice in three minutes in a 3-3 draw.
In the final game, Switzerland ran riot to hand Serbia a 3-2 defeat that consigned Stojkovic's side to the bottom of the group while the Swiss set up a last 16 clash with Portugal.
Stojkovic had said before the game that he had hoped to find holes in the Swiss defence, just like in their cheese, but he did nothing about the gaps in his own back line which were exploited by each team they faced.
Serbia finished their campaign with one of the worst defences in Qatar having conceded eight goals – more than their previous two World Cups combined.
They were second only to Costa Rica who shipped in 11 – which included seven in one game against Spain.
Serbia World Cup 2022 squad
Serbia announced their 26-man World Cup squad on November 12:
Goalkeepers: Marko Dmitrovic (Sevilla), Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca), Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino)
Defenders: Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Filip Mladenovic (Legia Warsaw), Strahinja Erakovic (Red Star Belgrade), Srdjan Babic (Almeria).
Midfielders: Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Sasa Lukic (Torino), Marko Grujic (Porto), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Uros Racic (Braga), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Hellas Verona), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona)
Forwards: Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Filip Duricic (Sampdoria), Luka Jovic (Fiorentina), Nemanja Radonji (Torino)
Who is their best player?
It has to be Mitrovic, Serbia's all-time top scorer. With 50 international goals to his name, Mitrovic has cultish support in his home country, having played for the national team since 2014. However, like most of his compatriots, he did not have the best game against Brazil, rating fairly low by Telegraph Sport readers. That said, as mentioned above, he was not fully fit.
What are Serbia's results and fixtures?
November 24: Brazil 2 Serbia 0
November 28: Cameroon 3 Serbia 3
December 2: Serbia 2 Switzerland 3
What is Serbia's World Cup record?
Serbia inherited Yugoslavia's World Cup record, which brings their cumulative number of World Cups attended to 12. Their highest finish came as the former socialist republic, when they finished in fourth place in 1962 after losing to hosts Chile.
They are yet to progress out of the group stages as an independent country, finishing third in their almost-identical group in Russia after losses against Switzerland and Brazil.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales