AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Nemanja Maksimovic scored late in extra time to give Serbia a surprise 2-1 win over Brazil on Saturday in the final of the Under-20 World Cup.
The match seemed headed for a penalty shootout when Serbia counterattacked in the 117th minute and Stefan Ilic combined with Andrija Zivkovic to put Maksimovic in behind the defense and he calmly slotted his low shot past goalkeeper Jean.
The victory, and Serbia’s first title as an independent nation, owed much to goalkeeper and captain Pedrag Rajkovic who pulled off a series of saves to repeatedly deny Brazil the victory.
“I can tell you we were lucky,” Serbia coach Veljko Paunovic said. “But luck is a part of the game and you have to deserve to be lucky. At the end I believe the team that wanted to win most would win this trophy and we got it.”
Brazil entered the final having gone 502 minutes without conceding a goal but that ended 70 minutes into the final when Stanisa Mandic swept home Maskimovic’s cross at the far post to give Serbia the lead.
Brazil equalized within two minutes as Andreas Pereira weaved past defenders before curling in a shot for a superb goal, but the favorites could not find a second throughout the remainder of regulation and extra time as Rajkovic stood tall in goal.
Brazil’s “next generation” was chasing a sixth U20 title. Before the match, influential Brazil midfielder Gabriel Boschilia said the team was “trying to restore the image of Brazilian football” after the senior team’s 7-1 loss at home against Germany in last year’s World Cup semifinals.
“The world lost a little respect for our country’s players after what happened at the 2014 World Cup, so we want to show them that we can still produce the goods,” he said.
Brazil coach Rogerio Micale consoled his players individually after the match and urged them not to give up on their task of rebuilding Brazilian football.
“I believe they were an example today and throughout this tournament with what they did and with their professionalism,” Micale said. “I am very proud of this team. They are a great generation and I will be proud when they play for the national team.”
Torrential rain doused the third-place playoff between Mali and Senegal – won 3-1 by Mali – but abated before the start of the final, which was played in dry conditions until a spectacular but short-lived cloudburst swept over North Harbour Stadium during extra time.
Brazil made most of the early play but found the Serbia defense, pivoting around Rajkovic, as tenacious as its own. Jean Carlos had the first real chance of the match in the 10th minute, striking a powerful shot from the edge of the area which elicited a superb save from Rajkovic.
Brazil probed on both flanks and in the 20th minute Gabriel Jesus broke free of his marker on the right, cut inside and fired a low shot which Rajkovic again repelled.
Jaoa Pedro showed his pace and attacking prowess in the 25th minute when he broke through midfield, controlled the ball under pressure and got in a shot which again found Rajkovic in perfect position.
Ivan Saponjic had Serbia’s first direct shot on goal in the 32nd minute but his effort from long range was easily gathered by Jean. The Brazil keeper was called on again two minutes later to stop Sergei Milinkovic’s strong shot.
Serbia’s best chance came just before the break from a corner on the right which was headed back from the far post to Malinkovic whose header was saved by Jean diving low to his left.
After the exchange of goals, Pereira came close with his free kick in the last minute of regular time. Brazil had a further chance to clinch the match at the end of the first period of extra time but, with Rajkovic beaten and the ball pin-balling in front of goal, the Brazilians couldn’t find the decisive strike.
Maksimovic fired a powerful shot inches above the right corner of goal in the third minute of the second period and Rajkovic tipped Joao Pedro’s effort over the bar in the 111th minute.