Francis Smerecki wants France to finish the job against Serbia as they look to join their opponents in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals.
France's 2-1 defeat of Turkey on matchday two – when Serbia booked their third last-four appearance in five seasons with a second straight Group B win, this time against Georgia – left Les Petits Bleus on four points, meaning a draw against Ljubinko Drulović's charges in Kaunas will be enough for the two-time champions to advance.
Despite losing captain Benjamin Mendy to injury – Olympique Lyonnais defender Louis Nganioni has been called up – Smerecki, who oversaw France's triumphant U19 campaign of 2010, insists his team are improving with every game and expects them to take another step forward against Serbia. Victory on Friday would take France through as group winners, but for the coach progress is more important than position.
"We need one point to qualify before we think about anything else," he said. "I'm not sure what to expect from Serbia. They may change a few players to give them a rest and protect them for the semi-final but for us we know we need at least a draw. Georgia can still catch us so we must make sure we get the result we need to qualify. Against Serbia, I want us to finish the work we started against Turkey."
With Andrija Luković suspended and a further seven Serbia players in danger of incurring the booking that would rule them out of the semi-final, Drulović is likely to fulfil Smerecki's prediction of squad rotation. "I will give a chance to the players who started the first two games on the bench," said the coach. "They are all good players and really deserve to play at this tournament.
"We have played two great games here but you can't predict what is going to happen," added Drulović, whose side have overcome Turkey 2-1 and Georgia 1-0. "We have qualified for the semi-finals but I prefer to take one game at a time and don't think too far ahead.
If we maintain the standard shown in the first two games I think we can achieve a lot."
Should Serbia record a third win, that would open the door for Georgia, who must beat Turkey – the only one of the eight finalists who cannot now reach the knockout stage – to have any chance of catching France, with whom they shared a goalless draw on matchday one. While bemoaning the errors that have cost his team dear, Giorgi Tsetsadze remains optimistic, explaining: "We started with a draw and then suffered a defeat. It's time to win the next match against Turkey."
Georgia captain Bachana Arabuli will sit out Friday's game in Marijampole having been booked in each of the first two matches and, although opponents Turkey are without defender İlkay Durmuş and centre-forward İbrahim Yılmaz, also through suspension, Okan Burk has left his squad in no doubt of what is required.
"Even though we've lost two games, to win the last and go home with three points is at least something," said the Turkey coach. "
I believe in this group of players and winning the last game is important. We have to perform according to the standards of this championship and show a level that the tournament deserves."
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