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Portugal and Serbia in second straight semi-final

Portugal and Serbia met in the 2013 semi-finals and it took penalties to separate them; Veljko Paunović expects another "very tough contest against phenomenal opponents".

Serbia coach Veljko Paunović oversees training ahead of the semi-final
Serbia coach Veljko Paunović oversees training ahead of the semi-final ©Sportsfile

Twelve months ago Serbia finally laid their UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-final ghosts to rest, prevailing against Portugal on penalties after a tumultuous tie in Lithuania. Serbia went on to take the title for the first time; now they must overcome familiar opponents at Felcsut's Puskás Akadémia Pancho Aréna.

An attack-minded side who have won all nine games in this season's competition, Portugal use Gelson Martins and Marcos Lopes wide in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. They move the ball quickly and then aim when possible for André Silva, usually the lone striker. Portugal showed their tactical flexibility against Israel and Austria, sitting back to soak up the pressure before hitting on the break.

How they got here
Top scorers in qualifying with 21 goals, Portugal have continued in similar vein in Hungary, comfortably overcoming Israel (3-0) and the hosts (6-1), when André Silva becoming the first player to score four goals in a U19 finals match. That took them through with a game to spare and Hélio Sousa's side duly made sure of first place by beating Austria 2-1.

Portugal coach Hélio Sousa in relaxed mood in training
Portugal coach Hélio Sousa in relaxed mood in training©Sportsfile

Semi-final pedigree
2013: Serbia 2-2 Portugal (aet; Serbia won 3-2 on penalties)
2003: Austria 3-6 Portugal (aet)

What they say
In this kind of competition, all the games are finals. You have to win the first game to start well, then the next to qualify for the Under-20 [World Cup], and [against Austria] we had to win to stay first. Now we have to win our next game to reach the final. And then we want to win the final – we want to win every game. The semi-final will be a final for us too.
Hélio Sousa, coach

Serbia's squad includes three players – goalkeeper Predrag Rajković and midfield pair Nemanja Maksimović and Mijat Gačinović – who lifted the trophy last summer. Maksimović pushes forward from central midfield to support the sole striker, and scored in the first two games; he is available again after his matchday three suspension.

Serbia's Predrag Rajković was the 2013 hero
Serbia's Predrag Rajković was the 2013 hero©Sportsfile

How they got here
Qualified unbeaten, but only reached the finals thanks to a 96th-minute goal against Turkey in their first elite round game. They fell behind to a first-minute Ukraine goal on matchday one but rallied to draw and were then within sight of victory against Germany only to be pegged back late on. That meant victory against Bulgaria was imperative and once more a last-minute goal, from substitute Staniša Mandić, came to Serbia's rescue.

Semi-final pedigree
2013: Serbia 2-2 Portugal (aet; Serbia won 3-2 on penalties)
2011: Czech Republic 4-2 Serbia
2009: Serbia 1-3 Ukraine
2005: Serbia and Montenegro 1-3 England

What they say
We are facing formidable opponents. Portugal have had a phenomenal run so far in this tournament and it will be very tough. They're the most efficient team in all of the stages of this competition. The numbers speak for themselves: nine points in both qualifying group, nine points here in Group A. They truly deserved to be in this semi-final. They play total football, are strong in every position, and we respect them.
Veljko Paunović, coach

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