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Mihajlovic quits Serbia, taking over at Sampdoria

Serbia's coach Mihajlovic reacts during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Belgium at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels

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Serbia's coach Sinisa Mihajlovic reacts during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Belgium …

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has stepped down after failing to secure qualification for next year's World Cup and taken over at Italian Serie A strugglers Sampdoria.

The Genoa-based club, 18th in the 20-team table with only two wins in 12 games, said in a statement that Mihajlovic would take charge of his first training session on Thursday before facing Lazio on Sunday. He will replace Delio Rossi who was fired last week.

Mihajlovic initially rallied against criticism aimed in his direction after Serbia finished third in World Cup qualifying Group A behind Belgium and Croatia, insisting he wanted to lead the country through the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

"I have decided to leave the Serbian national team and take up Sampdoria's offer... but I am sad because of it," Mihajlovic told reporters after leading Serbia in a traditional friendly against a select XI in the central city of Uzice on Tuesday.

"Money had nothing to do with it nor did Sampdoria's call trigger my departure. It happened because the Serbian Football Association (FSS) president Tomislav Karadzic and secretary general Zoran Laconic couldn't vouch that they would carry on."

Karadzic and Lakovic had stood firmly behind Mihajlovic despite poor results and backed his strict code of conduct which led to gifted forward Adem Ljajic being expelled from the national set-up because he refused to sing the anthem in a friendly.

Former defender Mihajlovic spent a number of years in Italy playing for Roma, Lazio, Inter Milan and Sampdoria, where he scored 12 goals in 110 league appearances from 1994-98.

He was coach of Fiorentina for just over one season in 2010-11 before being sacked due to poor results.

(Additional reporting by Brian Homewood, Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Zagreb; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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