Serbia claimed their first UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in Lithuania, remaining unbeaten in their five matches and edging a tight final against France.
Article top media content
There was a new name on the UEFA European Under-19 Championship trophy at the end of the 2012/13 season after Serbia claimed the silverware for the first time with a memorable triumph in Lithuania.
Serbia had lost all four previous U19 semi-finals but Ljubinko Drulović's side overcame Portugal in dramatic style and then edged a tight final against France in Marijampole on 1 August. Andrija Luković scored the only goal 12 minutes after half-time, the midfielder slotting in coolly after typically incisive work from Aleksandar Mitrović – already a senior international and the tournament's outstanding individual.
There were several surprises in the elite round, not least Georgia eliminating both England and Belgium to reach their first finals. The draw therefore featured two U19 debutants with the hosts also making an inaugural appearance, though Lithuania could hardly have received a tougher task having been pitted with the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal in Group A.
Antanas Vingilys's team fell 2-0 down within 30 minutes of their opening fixture against the Netherlands and, while they recovered to 2-2, Rai Vloet's added-time effort gave the Dutch the points. Lithuania also lost to Spain (0-1) and Portugal (2-4), although Gratas Sirgedas did finish as the competition's joint top scorer. His three goals placed him level with Portugal's Alexandre Guedes and Netherlands forward Anass Achahbar, whose side also bowed out early thanks mainly to a 4-1 defeat in their second fixture against the Portuguese. Spain had beaten their neighbours 1-0 in their opening game, the first of three victories for the holders en route to a fourth successive semi-final.
Serbia controlled Group B from the outset, booking a third semi-final in five campaigns with a match to spare courtesy of wins against Turkey (2-1) and Georgia (1-0). France joined them despite a frustrating initial draw against Georgia – their 2-1 matchday two triumph which eliminated Turkey ultimately proving crucial. A 1-1 closing draw against a much-changed Serbia sent France into the last four behind their opponents, while Turkey overtook Georgia for third position with a 4-2 closing success.
Portugal, in the semis for the first time since 2003, looked set for the final when Guedes put them 2-1 up in Alytus with 11 minutes remaining only for Mijat Gačinović to level. Predrag Rajković saved twice in the shoot-out and Mitrović finally settled the contest. The second semi-final in Kaunas proved no less epic, José Rodríguez (27pen) and Yassine Benzia (29) swapping first-half goals. Antoine Conte, who had conceded the Spanish penalty, found redemption with an extra-time winner for France – but Serbia had the last word three days later.