Serbia improved their excellent recent UEFA European Under-19 Championship record by reaching the finals for the third time in their last four attempts. By contrast, they have never qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and though coach Zoran Marić told UEFA.com he was "keeping some ambitions to [himself]", he did reveal a place at next year's tournament in Turkey is top of his wish list.
UEFA.com: In qualifying you knocked out Germany, Romania and Hungary. What encouraging signs did you see in those fixtures?
Zoran Marić: Those games mean so much to me. I saw many positive things in the last three competitive matches, but that's now in the past and we must concentrate on the future. Each of the teams that has qualified will be at their peak come July and will want the same result.
UEFA.com: What is a realistic target for your team?
Marić: Firstly, that depends on my final squad. The dates of the tournament mean Serbian clubs will be starting qualifying for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. I believe we'll be able to call on all the players. In that case, our first target will be the semi-finals. I'm optimistic and believe we can do it.
UEFA.com: You will play France, England and Croatia. How does your team match up to them?
Marić: We played France in a friendly tournament in Portugal between two qualifying rounds and lost 2-0, but it wasn't our strongest side. I remember France as being a strong team, well-organised, and with a lot of quality. Also, they got good results in the elite round in a strong group with the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Norway. They're the ones we're focusing on as we play them first, but I'm also collating information on the other two teams. Right now, I'm having a good look at them, especially England. Our group is very tough.
UEFA.com: How are much are you thinking about the fact that six teams can qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup?
Marić: I suppose all eight teams will be thinking the same thing: 'How do we find a way to get to Turkey?' That is a challenge. I want to take my team there, gain in experience and reinforce our qualities. We've been to many EUROs at Under-17 and U19 level, but never qualified for the World Cup. It's time we did.
UEFA.com: How will you and your team benefit from this tournament?
Marić: It's the greatest challenge of my coaching career. We will be up against the best teams on the continent. When you look at who's already out, you could say that we've achieved a great success in just reaching the finals. We will learn so many things and our players will be much more experienced. I have some private ambitions and wishes, but I do not want to reveal everything. I want to keep some secrets for my players.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.