Debutant, Serbians, Are World Youth Under-20 Champions
REPUBLIC of Serbia, appearing in its maiden Under-21 championship as a self-governing nation yesterday at the Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium, New Zealand, defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time to emerge the new champion.
A Nemanja Maksimović’s 117th-minute strike earned the Serbians the famous win as they stopped Brazil’s unbeaten run at the championship to lift the trophy.
FC Astana midfielder Maksimović found an extra burst of energy with penalties only three minutes away, sprinting through the Brazil back line, collecting Andrija Živković’s pass and poking the ball in for an historic 2-1 victory.
It was an apt way to finish a final Brazil had dominated but always looked susceptible to Serbian counterattacks. It was how they had taken the lead on 70 minutes, Maksimović setting up Staniša Mandić. Substitute Andreas Pereira quickly equalised, sending the game to extra time and ultimately Maksimović’s golden moment.
In the third place match, Senegal succumbed to the firepower of Mali 3-1, which won the bronze medal.
A second half double from Adamama Traore ensured Les Aiglons ensured Joseph Koto’s team failed in their bid to end their debut on a high despite taking the lead through Ibrahima Wadji in a cracker that saw two penalty saves at the North Harbour Stadium.
Senegal entered yesterday’s game hoping to restore some pride following a 5-0 semi-final drubbing against Brazil. However, they were undermined as second-half goals from Traore and a Diadie Samasseko injury-time effort ensured Fanyer Diarra’s team took the dubious honour of finishing third.
“Thanks to everybody who supported us,” said coach Veljko Paunović. “This is for our country, for Serbian football. I am so proud: the players have finished the first episode of their careers in the best possible way. Now it’s a time to take a look at the next 10 years in senior football. I don’t think it’s the last trophy for this this generation.”
Serbia qualified for the New Zealand finals as winners of the 2013 UEFA European Under-19 Championship. They had never reached the decider before as an independent nation, although Yugoslavia won it in 1987.
Brazil were bidding to match Argentina’s record haul of six wins – in their ninth final. They had extended their unprecedented unbeaten run at this tournament to 21 consecutive games before defeat by Serbia.
The Malians enjoyed the better part of the opening stages and came close in the ten minutes as Aboubacar Doumbia passing inside to Hamidou Traore and continuing his run to race on to the perfectly weighted return. But with Ibrahima Sy narrowing the angle, he went for the chip and his connection was just too heavy, sending the ball floating over the crossbar.
As the game progressed, Senegal came gradually into the game with Roger Gomis and Sidy Sarr forcing goalkeeper Djigui Diarra in excellent saves.
In recognition of outstanding players of the tournament, Mali’s hero, Traore, was picked as the most valuable player, winning the Adidas Golden Ball award, while the Golden Glove laurel went to Serbia’s Predrag Rajkovic and the Golden Boot to Ukraine’s Viktor Kovalenko.
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