On the eve of Thursday's UEFA European Under-19 Championship final against France in Marijampole, Serbia captain Marko Pavlovski told UEFA.com that both he and his team-mates are in euphoric spirits.
The first team to reach the semi-finals here in Lithuania, Ljubinko Drulović's side subsequently prevailed in a penalty shoot-out against Portugal on Monday to qualify for their first final – Serbia having previously lost three times at the last-four stage. "That was a really long and intense match and the weather conditions were tough," midfielder Pavlovski explained of a game that ended 2-2 after extra time in Alytus. "We played in scorching heat and high humidity; I was breathing hard and I am known to be quite physically fit."
This year's finalists played out a 1-1 draw in the group stage – a result that took France through to a semi-final against reigning champions Spain – and despite not fielding a first-choice XI on that occasion, Pavlovski believes Serbia edged an encounter in which he scored the equalising goal. "I have watched it again and I can say that, even without playing our first XI, we were equal to France and perhaps even better in the second half," he said.
Adding that it "can be hard playing against the same team twice in a tournament," the OFK Beograd tyro feels the lessons learned from last Friday's meeting in Kaunas will serve his side well. "France's team spirit [is one of their strengths] while they also have great individuals, especially in midfield," he said. "I think it will be to our advantage having already played them, though.
"We've played four fantastic games here and despite being a little tired, we're ready to fight against a fantastic team," the No10 continued. "We've been working on our mentality and know we'll need to be calm. Whoever keeps a cool head will emerge as winners."
Receiving significant attention back home with their exploits at this championship, the Serbia U19s would achieve hero status should they overcome Les Petits Bleus, a prospect that fills Pavlovski with pride. "I heard there is big hype at home because of what we have done here and as captain of the Serbia team I am happy to [represent] this generation," he said.
"There is euphoria among our squad at the moment. You don't get to play a European final very often. We will go into the Serbian football history books if we win so we don't want to miss our chance to lift the trophy."
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