Croatia-Serbia face-off sparks rush for tickets

21 February 2013 06:17

The March 22 World Cup qualifier between neighbours and rivals Croatia and Serbia has sparked a rush for tickets with hundreds of home fans spending hours queueing overnight to ensure tickets.

National HRT television Thursday broadcast images of fans who, defying freezing temperatures, spent the night in open air in downtown Zagreb waiting for kiosks to open and tickets be released.

The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) was to release for sale some 24,000 tickets, some of them over the Internet, and said it expected them to sell out during the day.

"For this match there is huge interest that exceeds the capacity of the Maksimir stadium several times," the federation said on its Facebook page.

The venue can accommodate some 34,000 spectators.

The HNS and its Serbian counterpart had decided that, in a bid to avoid crowd trouble, away fans would be banned from the matches between the countries who fought a bitter war almost two decades ago as the former Yugoslavia fell apart.

The return match is to be played on September 6 in Belgrade.

Relations between the two countries have gradually improved since Croatia's 1990s war against Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs who opposed its independence from the former Yugoslavia.

However, sports events including teams from Croatia and Serbia are still considered high risk.

The qualifiers are the first football matches between the two nations since the 1991-1995 conflict.

In 1999, Croatia played their 2000 European championship qualifiers against rump Yugoslavia -- at the time composed of just Montenegro and Serbia -- without visiting fans.

European qualifying zone Group A also features Belgium, Macedonia, Scotland and Wales.

Source: AFP