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Published: Sunday 1 January 2012, 18.08CET
Having reached the semi-finals in 2011 under Dejan Govedarica, Serbia are back in the finals for a second successive season after coming through an eventful elite round.
Serbia Under-19 squad ©Dejan Vuković
Published: Sunday 1 January 2012, 18.08CET


Having reached the semi-finals in 2011 under Dejan Govedarica, Serbia are back in the finals for a second successive season after coming through an eventful elite round.

Things did not start well for Serbia in the qualifying round: they drew with Lithuania and lost against the Czech Republic, just scraping the runners-up slot by virtue of a win against Israel. However, their confidence received a major lift as they staged Group 3 on home soil, with a 2-2 draw against Germany in their elite round Group 3 opener before Nikola Ninković scored the only goal in their next game against Hungary. Serbia thus faced Romania for a place in the finals, surging through against their eight-man opponents with a 3-0 victory.

Coach Zoran Marić said: "It was unusual match: three penalties and three players shown red cards. We deserved to qualify, because our motivation and team spirit were so strong. After a tournament like this one, we have a much better team; experience like this means so much."

Marić may be without two of his most exciting players in Estonia, with ACF Fiorentina defender Matija Nastasić and FK Partizan forward Lazar Marković already being fast-tracked into the senior team, but the coach is still aiming for at least a top three finish in their group – and a place in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. "This team has already showed that they play well without those players. Our target is to be one of the best six teams, and after that to get to the semi-finals again. But, step by step..."

Qualifying round: Lithuania 0-0, Israel 1-0, Czech Republic 0-1 (Group 5 runners-up)

Elite round: Germany 2-2, Hungary 1-0 ,Romania 3-0 (Group 3 winners)

Key players: Marko Poletanović (midfielder, FK Vojvodina), Nikola Ninković (forward, FK Partizan), Srdjan Mijailović (midfielder, FK Crvena zvezda), Filip Stojković (midfielder, FK Crvena zvezda), Aleksandar Mitrović (forward, FK Partizan)

Coach: Zoran Marić
Born: 21 February 1960
Nationality: Serbian
Playing career: FK Novi Sad, FK Voyvodina, RC Celta de Vigo, SD Compostela
Coaching career: SD Compostela, FK Vojvodina (twice), FK Borac Banja Luka, Serbia Under-18s, Serbia Under-19s

Having started his career with their sister club Novi Sad, Marić was a star striker at Vojvodina from 1979 to 1987, earning two senior caps for Yugoslavia in 1983. He moved to Spain to play for Celta before hanging up his boots following a spell at Compostela, where he would start his coaching career in 2000.

Marić subsequently returned to Serbia, and twice took charge of Vojvodina between spells working with their youth teams, later working in a similar capacity for the Football Association of Serbia (FSS).

Team facts

Qualifying top scorer
Aleksandar Mitrović: 4

UEFA European Under-19 Championship best
Semi-finals: 2006 (as Serbia and Montenegro), 2009, 2011

Honours in UEFA youth competitions
UEFA European Under-16 Championship

Runners-up: 1990 (as Yugoslavia)
International Youth Tournament (U18)
Winners: 1951, 1979 (as Yugoslavia)
Runners-up: 1952, 1962 (as Yugoslavia)

Other honours
FIFA U-20 World Cup

Winners: 1987 (as Yugoslavia)

Last updated: 09/06/12 12.33CET

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