FIFA World Cup finalist and DFB Cup hero Ante Rebic has returned to action and is back among the goals for Eintracht Frankfurt, while the Serbian trio of Filip Kostic, Luka Jovic and Mijat Gacinovic have also helped the Eagles take flight. examines how a quality quartet from the Balkans has helped Adi Hütter's side find their wings since mid-September.

There is little doubt Rebic, who made such a strong impression last season, changes games and teams. There is a Frankfurt with the Croatia international, and one — less successful — without.

Three points came from the opening three matches of the season as Rebic worked his way back to fitness following his summer exertions in Russia; seven points have followed in four games since his return — as well as a goal for the 25-year-old former Fiorentina man in each of his last three league appearances — to ease the worries of Frankfurt fans.

Watch: Ante Rebic did the damage in Frankfurt's 2-1 win at Hoffenheim on Matchday 7

The pride they felt in seeing their rising star shine en route to a World Cup runners-up medal must have been tinged by concern, too. The fears Rebic and/or the club would cash in on his newly elevated status faded when he announced in August that, thanks in large part to the club's passionate following, he had decided to extend his contract through to 2022, shunning suitors who had been attracted to the qualities that have made him key to Frankfurt.

"He lines up willingly on the left, where he can cut inside. He can play up front on his own or play with two strikers," explained Eintracht boss Hütter. "His drive, pace and presence make him an important player for my system."

Having lost the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Lukas Hradecky over the close season, keeping hold of Rebic was an excellent piece of business, and the impact he has had on the side since making his 2018/19 Bundesliga bow suggests he is ready to repay the faith shown in him.

Serbian trio Kostic, Jovic and Gacinovic — the latter two of whom were knocked out with their country in the group stage in Russia — must have watched on enviously as Rebic prolonged his adventure and postponed his summer holidays.

The roles were reversed at club level as the season began, though, and the three have helped carry the burden.

Ante Rebic started six of Croatia's seven games en route to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. © gettyimages / Pierre-Philippe Marcou

It turns out that good things do come to those who wait. Kostic can attest to that, after gleefully slamming home Frankfurt's second goal in a 4-1 UEFA Europa League group stage drubbing of Lazio this month.

The 25-year-old has been playing club football in Germany since 2014, but it's fair to say that he hasn't had much luck during that time. The winger produced moments of magic – undoubtedly - but despite his best efforts VfB Stuttgart - in May 2016 - and Hamburg - in May 2018 - were relegated.

In recent months, though, the Serbian winger has well and truly put those disappointments behind him. Having played a pivotal role in helping his country qualify for a first major tournament in eight years, he featured in all three of Serbia’s group matches at the 2018 World Cup.

Filip Kostic's mercurial talents are being put to good use at Eintracht Frankfurt. © imago / Jan Huebner

Late in August, Kostic sealed a loan move to Eintracht and - in his club's first European home match in over four years - he picked a huge evening on which to get his first goal for his new employers.

"It was a magical night that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up," Hütter said afterwards. "I'll never forget it."

The home fans' colourful displays pre-game and vociferous backing during it had made it a night to remember for the squad, too, but the players also delivered a performance worthy of the occasion.

Danny da Costa's two goals bookended their victory over the Italian giants, but Eintracht's Serbian stars also made it happen. Playing off French forward Sebastien Haller, Kostic, Jovic and Gacinovic swarmed around the visiting players, rarely giving the Italian side a moment's peace.

Hütter has stressed that 60-70 percent of goals in modern football are scored in the five-seven seconds after the ball has been won back. The goal that made it 2-1 against Lazio was a direct result of his side's high press. Haller rode a tackle on the right, Gacinovic profited from a disorganised defence, and Kostic delivered the coup de grace.

Eintracht's number 10 wasn't done there, as he was hauled down by compatriot Dusan Basta to leave Lazio a man down before half-time.

Jovic followed up in the second half with a glorious chipped finish – adding to the winning goal he had got on Matchday 1 in Marseille. It proved part of a perfect week for the striker, who is on loan from Benfica. Before the Lazio game, he came off the bench to score in a 4-1 win over Hannover. After it, he set up the first goal and got the clinching second in a 2-1 success at Hoffenheim — set up by Kostic — after Jovic himself had teed up Rebic for the opener.

"There are players who need relatively few scoring chances," Hütter said after the most recent game. "Luka Jovic, for example, scores four times out of every five chances because he's a poacher and, when he's in the box, he knows where the goal is."

The 20-year-old had already shown plenty of potential last term. Jovic made only nine starts in the league but netted eight times during his first season in Frankfurt, and also got a memorable back-heeled winner against Schalke in the 2017/18 DFB Cup semi-final.

Luka Jovic (l.) has scored more goals in all competitions in 2018 than any other Frankfurt player (eight). © gettyimages / Marco Rosi

Gacinovic, who had captained Serbia's U20 side to their age category World Cup in 2015, did not join his teammates in the senior version of the global showpiece last summer, but though his country felt they could do without him, Frankfurt know they cannot.

"Mijat is one of the best footballers here," said former Frankfurt boss Niko Kovac after seeing the youngster score one and set up another — the decisive strike from Alex Meier — that kept their club in the top flight and dashed Nuremberg's promotion hopes in the 2015/16 play-off.

He secured himself another line in the club's history with a goal in the DFB Cup final defeat of Bayern Munich last May, and has been a mainstay of Hütter's side this season, excelling in the central midfield role he has made his own since being converted from a left winger by Kovac.

Mijat Gacinovic has made over 70 Bundesliga appearances since joining Frankfurt from Vojvodina in 2015. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

The Balkan brilliance at Hütter's disposal has helped him alternate between a four- and a five-man midfield this season. Jovic and Rebic can provide a perfect foil for Haller with Gacinovic raiding from behind them, while Kostic and even Rebic are fully at home on the wing.

Eintracht signed off before the international break with ten goals in three wins. With their four stars from the East coming into flying form, though, the Eagles might only be getting started.

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