Serbia left it late to win their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup title, with Nemanja Maksimovic grabbing a dramatic extra time winner to seal victory. 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 Seleção No20 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.
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Serbia then fired a warning shot across Brazil’s bows, with some threatening play down their right flank. Milan Gajic and Zivkovic linked up well, with the full-back breaking into the Brazilian box on the underlap. The Serbian No2 hit a vicious shot at goal, which Jean saved well.
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.
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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, Brazil’s No18 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. Pereira had a late chance to seal victory in the 90 minutes, but Rajkovic parried his free-kick away, meaning the fourth U-20 World Cup final in a row would require extra time to find a victor.
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.
Substitute Malcom proved a thorn in Serbia’s left-hand side throughout extra time. After breaking through once and being foiled by Rajkovic, the speedy winger found himself clear of the Serbian defence and one-on-one with Serbia’s goalkeeper again. His effort was cleared by Milos Veljkovic before first Andreas Pereira and then Jean Carlos were thwarted by some last-ditch Serbian defending.
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. His late, late strike came after a lung-busting run with just three minutes remaining. Zivkovic’s through ball found the onrushing No8 who, after glancing at the assistant referee to check he was onside, poked the ball past Jean to seal a historic victory for the Serbs.