Displaying pace, power, maturity and attacking intelligence, forward Aleksandar Mitrović embodied all that was good about 2013 UEFA European Under-19 Championship winners Serbia.
Aged just 18 and standing 189cm tall, Mitrović's reputation prior to the 12th edition of the U19 Championship in Lithuania matched his imposing frame. Having already made a brief appearance at the 2012 finals in Estonia, the FK Partizan attacker further enhanced his status in the game with a season to remember for club and country.
The teenager scored ten Super League goals in his debut campaign for a Partizan side that would be crowned Serbian champions. Mitrović also contributed a single goal in five UEFA Europa League group stage outings before making his senior international bow in Serbia's FIFA World Cup qualifying loss away to Belgium in June.
He then linked up with the U19 team, Serbia having lost two European Championship semi-finals in the past four years. Ljubinko Drulović's charges began their tilt at a first title in resolute mood, against 2004 finalists Turkey in Marijampole. A constant menace to the opposition defence, Mitrović met Andrija Luković's 54th-minute cross to volley in and secure a 2-0 advantage. His strike proved decisive after Turkey's late rally.
Tournament debutants Georgia followed and, with Mitrović's determination unrelenting, his accurate lobbed pass to substitute Dejan Meleg with 16 minutes remaining was the key move in a 1-0 win. Serbia duly became the first side at the finals to secure their passage to the last four.
Rested for the subsequent 1-1 Group B draw with France, Mitrović returned for what proved to be an epic semi-final against Portugal in Alytus. Uroš Djurdjević's early header put Serbia in front only for Emílio Peixe's team to respond and then take the lead. Mijat Gačinović's late equaliser sent the game into extra time and when a penalty shoot-out ensued, goalkeeper Predrag Rajković's heroics gave Mitrović the chance to convert winning spot kick. Cue scenes of ecstasy among team and coaching staff alike.
"We left our bodies and souls on the pitch," the striker told UEFA.com. "Everything we worked on when preparing for this tournament paid off. We have gone into Serbian football history."
With many of Drulović's's squad talking about writing another "glorious page" in the annals of Serbian football, a final reunion against France – conquerors of holders Spain in the semis – provided just the opportunity. An engaging and highly tactical encounter in Marijampole was eventually decided by a side-footed finish from Andrija Luković, who immediately sought out provider Mitrović after the striker's composed lay-back had set up the match winner.
"It still hasn't sunk in what we have done here," said Mitrović, who left Partizan for RSC Anderlecht in the aftermath of the U19 final. "I was aware that people looked at me as a kind of a leader, but I didn't burden myself with that. I tried to give my best for the team, which was the most important thing."
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