Uroš Djurdjević pointed to the options from the bench in Serbia's squad as a major advantage as Ljubinko Drulović's team head into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals.
After wins in the first two Group B games secured progress with a match to spare, the coach opted to make six changes for the concluding fixture against France. That looked to have backfired when Adrien Hunou gave Les Petitis Bleus the lead – a scoreline which would have meant they finished first ahead of their opponents – yet Serbia rallied strongly and regained top spot thanks to Marko Pavlovski's late free-kick.
"We had to rest some players because they were tired and several others were left out because a yellow card [against France] would have meant they'd miss the semi-finals and we needed them to be available," explained Djurdjević, who believes the unity in the squad has been a key factor in their success. "We've been together for a long time, a year now."
Captain Pavlovski echoed that view, telling UEFA.com: "Of course, we always practice different lineups in training.
All 18 guys can compete against any team. They give their all and put on a great show, like the new players did [against France]."
While accepting it had taken time for the new faces to find their feet in that game, the midfielder believes Serbia have shown their mettle in this tournament. "We had a few players missing, so that may be why the new players needed the first half to get in to the rhythm of the European Championship, because this is their first big competition.
"We showed great character, especially when the team ran out on the field in the second half seeming relaxed even if it was a really big match for them. I can only say that I am honestly proud of being captain to such great guys."
With Djurdjević unconcerned who Serbia faced in the semi-finals – "It's the same for me whoever we play" – Pavlovski admitted they had taken little notice of the Group A action so far and would need to brush up on next opponents Portugal very quickly.
"We haven't analysed anyone else; we've been concentrated on [Group B]," he said. "[We've had] three days to prepare ourselves, to rest our heads and our feet, and so we will see. I hope we can win against anyone."
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