Wellington, June 20 (IANS) Serbia left it late to win their first FIFA Under-20 World Cup title, with Nemanja Maksimovic grabbing a dramatic extra time winner to seala 2-1 victory here on Saturday.
He had earlier set up Stanisa Mandic to open the scoring before substitute Andreas Pereira sent the game to extra time with a leveller for Brazil, who dominated possession but were undone by swift Serbian counter-attacks.
After a cagey start by both teams, Brazil had the opening opportunity. Milos Veljkovic headed a dangerous-looking Brazilian free-kick as far as Jean Carlos on the edge of the Serbian penalty area. The Brazilian volleyed a vicious effort at goal with his right foot, but Predrag Rajkovic got down to push the ball away.
Serbia had the best opportunity of the opening half. Just before the interval, Serbia’s star man Andrija Zivkovic whipped a corner to the back post from the Serbian right, which was headed back across goal by Babic. Sergej Milinkovic had a free header on goal, but Jean got down to save smartly.
Brazil were quickest out of the blocks after the break. Jorge worked the ball well down the Brazilian left, into the Serbian penalty area, before firing in a low cross. Rajkovic parried, Antonov poked away and Seleção skipper Danilo hit a wild effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
Serbia then fired a warning shot across Brazil’s bows, with some threatening play down their right flank.
That warning was not heeded by Brazil as Serbia once again worked an opening down their right-hand side. This time, it resulted in the final’s opening goal.
Maksimovic burst into the Brazilian penalty area down that right-hand side and chipped a delicate cross to the back post. Stanisa Mandic drifted in from the left-hand side, taking advantage of some slack defending by Joao Carlos to sweep home from inside the six yard box.
The lead didn’t last long. Less than three minutes later, Andreas Pereira produced a moment of individual magic to level the scores. Having come on as a substitute less than ten minutes earlier, he worked his way into the Serbian penalty area and cut inside onto his right foot before placing the ball with wonderful precision past Rajkovic in the Serbian goal.
As well as heavy legs for those involved, the Auckland weather added another dimension of difficulty to extra time, with driving rain making conditions difficult for both sets of players.
Serbia then began to create openings of their own in the second period of extra time, with Maksimovic cutting inside onto his right foot and thumping an effort at goal which fizzed just over the stretching Jean’s crossbar. Joao Pedro then matched that strike, hitting a swerving effort from distance which Rajkovic tipped over.
But it was to be Maksimovic who would write his name into the history books.