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Gačinović rueful as Serbia fall short

Mijat Gačinović said he was "sorry it had to end like this" after Serbia's grip on the title was ended by Portugal, Predrag Rajković adding: "Luck wasn't on our side."

Serbia's Mijat Gačinović reflects on his penalty miss
Serbia's Mijat Gačinović reflects on his penalty miss ©Sportsfile

Serbia were "so close" to defending the UEFA European Under-19 Championship title they won last year yet spirits were undimmed by defeat on penalties against Portugal.

The cyclical nature of football was illustrated by the shoot-out at the Puskás Akadémia Pancho Aréna as Mijat Gačinović – who converted Serbia's fourth spot kick in the semi-final shoot-out against Portugal in 2013 – blazed their first effort over the bar. "Honestly, I feel really bad – we deserved to go to the final," the midfielder told UEFA.com.

"Portugal are a fantastic team and we played quite well. It was a very even match, and I'm sorry it had to end like this," the midfielder went on. "We've shown everyone that we can compete with anybody, as long as we're at our best. And we were at our best, [even though] a few players were missing. The most important thing is that we stayed as a true group, and that is paramount in football. We were so close."

That view was echoed by goalkeeper Predrag Rajković, who saved two Portugal penalties in 2013 but was unable to repeat the feat in Felcsut, despite blocking Tomás Podstawski's kick. "The match was very tough," he told UEFA.com. " We played well and had a lot of chances, which we didn't convert, and luck wasn't on our side in the penalties.

"Last year it was different; you could say that we had more luck then, but such is life," the FK Crvena zvezda custodian added. "We have to start preparing for the future and keep our heads high. We've only just begun. The World Cup is awaiting us in May and we'll try to make the most of it. It's as simple as that."

Gačinović had also turned his thoughts to the future, in particular next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup. "We've managed to qualify for that and I hope we'll prepare for to the best of our abilities and get some significant results there," he added. "I'm glad I'll get to spend more time with these guys. It is an honour to be a part of this team."