Serbia win FIFA U20 World Cup | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 20.06.2015
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Serbia win FIFA U20 World Cup

Serbia have beaten Brazil in the U20 World Cup final in New Zealand. But can the Serbians turn their triumph into a stronger national team? The U20 coach believes so.

Serbia's U20 World Cup win could be the start of a bright future for the country's national football team, said coach Veljko Paunovic.

An 118th minute winner from Nemanja Maksimovic secured the title and a 2-1 win over the much-fancied Brazil who were keen to right the wrongs of last summer's World Cup on home soil.

Since becoming an independent nation, Serbia has underachieved at international level, but has recently shown promise at youth level.

In 2013, the country won its maiden international title, winning the U19 European Championships with five of the players that won the U20 World Cup. Its U21 national team is also competing at the Euros in the Czech Republic.

But unlike previous generations, the victorious Paunovic believes recent success could propel his nation on to better fortunes at elite level.

"They can get to the top of the world and I can tell you that there are a lot of good players in this generation who will play in the best games in the world over the next 10 years," Paunovic told Serbian media.

"This is the time for this generation to grow up and say farewell to youth football and this is the best way to do it.

"It is a massive achievement but the essence is how we did it. Not the kind of football where you dominate all the time, but we defended as if our nation's fate was on the line."

Following in the footsteps of greats

Neuseeland Fußball U20 Weltmeisterschaft Serbien vs. Brasilien

Maksimovic, an U19 Euro winner in 2013, strikes a sucker punch in extra time

In wet conditions in Auckland, Serbia weathered the attacking storm from Brazil for well over an hour before striking at the other end.

Stanisa Mandic scored with 20 minutes left to put a memorable title within reach, but those hopes were dashed three minutes later when Manchester United's Andreas Pereira converted an exquisite move.

With the scores at 1-1, extra time seemed to favor the Brazilians initially who had most control of the game. But two minutes before the end, Maksimovic was played through at the end of a terrific counterattack, and slotted the ball into the net for the win.

Serbia's achievements match that of the Yugoslavia side who won the tournament in 1987 that featured Zvonimir Boban, Davor Suker and Predrag Mijatovic.

U20 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic admitted to FIFA's official website that the current squad has drawn inspiration from the 1987 team.

"We are one team with one heart and that's been our motto from the start. We've all really enjoyed this adventure and the experiences we've had here in New Zealand," the keeper said.

Earlier, Mali, who beat Germany in the last eight, took third-place in New Zealand with a 3-1 over ten-man Senegal.

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