Stojković's prayers are answered

Serbia and Montenegro goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković said "God has given us a second chance" after a dramatic finale to Group A saw his side into the semi-finals.

As the final whistle blew at the Estádio Municipal de Braga last night, the real drama was only just beginning. Serbia and Montenegro players walked off the pitch with heads bowed, thinking they had been eliminated after their 2-0 loss to France. Then the news broke from Guimaraes that Portugal had scored against Germany in added time.

'The end'
"We thought it was the end for us," goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković told uefa.com. "Then some guys from the stand shouted down that Portugal had scored. No one on the bench knew." A huge cheer went up from the Serbo-Montenegrin contingent high in the stands. Supporters crowded around monitors in the press box to watch the climax of the game in Guimaraes, as down on the field the players willed Portugal to hold on.

Portugal winner
"I was walking to the dressing room when they told me Portugal had scored," Stojković said. "Then I saw that five minutes of added time had already been played but that there were still two minutes to go. We were staring at the monitor and when Germany had their last chance from the corner, when they missed we knew we were through."

'Second chance'
Portugal, Germany and Serbia and Montenegro finished level on three points, but Dragomir Okuka's side advanced because of a better goal difference between the three. "God gave us a second chance - we cannot argue with that," Stojković said. "After what happened tonight it really doesn't matter who we play next."

'Luck'
France were group winners, completing a hat-trick of victories with an another impressive performance against a Serbo-Montenegrin lineup that struggled to match the form they had shown against Portugal in a 2-0 success three days previously. "We had luck, definitely," striker Milan Purović said. "This game was hard, especially after the one against Portugal where all the players put in a lot of effort to win. We have to take this opportunity and try to go further and reach the final. Sometimes you need luck and today we had it."

'Play better'
France coach René Girard could afford to make six changes from the team that defeated Germany, but Okuka elected to name an unchanged selection. In the heat and humidity of Braga, the strain told on his players as they tried in vain to chase the game in the second half. "I think we played well but the French were fresher than us and that had an influence on the result," midfielder Ivan Todorović said. "We hope we will play better in the semi-final and will succeed in going further."

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