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Croatia beats Serbia 2-0 in World Cup qualifier, 1st soccer meeting between nations since war

Fans greeted the visitors with chants that included "Kill, Kill the Serbs!" as Croatia beat Serbia 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifier that marked the first soccer meeting between the Balkan rivals since their war in the 1990s.

Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic scored first-half goals for Croatia, which like Serbia was once part of Yugoslavia.

"It was fantastic, and I'll remember it all my life," Mandzukic said.

Thousands of riot police were deployed at packed Maksimir Stadium to prevent trouble from home fans. Serbian supporters were banned from attending to prevent possible clashes.

Tensions were high because of the wartime history, and the win triggered street celebrations and fireworks in many Croatian cities. Streets in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, were empty.

"This is a victory for the whole of Croatia," Olic said.

Mandzukic scored on a tap-in in the 23rd minute after a wayward pass by Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov, and Olic doubled the lead in the 37th of a cross from Darijo Srna.

"We all know what this means to our country," Srna said.

Belgium, which won 2-0 at Macedonia, leads Europe Group A on goal difference over Croatia, both with 13 points at 4-0-1. Wales (2-3) has six points, followed by Serbia and Macedonia (both 1-3-1) with four apiece.

The group winner qualifies for the 32-nation field in Brazil next year, while the second-place team likely will advance to a playoff.

"We lost to a more experienced and better team," Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said. "We conceded two cheap goals, we played better in the second half, we had chances, but we paid the price of inexperience. We went into the game with fear and that's what happened."

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Jovana Gec contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.