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Rukavina's eyes on last four

Serbia defender Antonio Rukavina is confident the prospect of a semi-final place will inspire the early Group B leaders to victory against the Czech Republic.

Serbia defender Antonio Rukavina is confident the prospect of claiming a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals will provide the early Group B pacesetters with all the motivation they need as they prepare to play the Czech Republic on Thursday.

Early initiative
Miroslav Djukić's side took the initiative with a 1-0 win against Italy in their first fixture on Monday to establish a two-point lead in the section thanks to the goalless draw between England and the Czech Republic. Rukavina believes his side have the ability to build on that fine start, saying: "We knew a lot about Italy and they're a better team than the Czechs. But we can't make the mistake of worrying too much about our opponents. We must play our game, think about ourselves, concentrate on our own game and play to our strengths."

'Forget Italy'
Those words were echoed by Monday's match-winner Dejan Milovanović, who told uefa.com: "We must forget Italy, that was only the first match. Three points is really great and the day after the match we were breathing easily because we'd got the win, but our minds quickly turned to the second game. We know we must also beat the Czech Republic and we're focused on that now. Our target against Italy was to make sure we didn't lose, but we had enough self-confidence to win. Our desire was stronger. Now we must use those positive qualities to win again and secure our place in the semi-finals."

Motivated and inspired
Victory in Nijmegen will take Serbia into the semi-finals for the third successive tournament and Rukavina is adamant his team-mates can rise to the occasion once again when they return to the Goffert Stadion to take on opponents who have been plagued by injury problems. "We played really well against Italy and you always have special motivation and inspiration to play against teams who are the favourites. However, we have enough knowledge, experience and motivation to play in the same way against the Czechs because if we win we'll reach the semi-finals. That was our primary aim when we came to these finals."

New face
At Wednesday's pre-match press conference Serbia coach Djukić repeatedly stated his desire for three points against the Czech Republic, but his right-back – who, having won only his fifth U21 cap against the Azzurrini, is one of the newer additions to a vastly experienced squad – believes failure to win would not necessarily be disastrous. "We're top of the group at the moment so the initial aim on Thursday is not to lose. Hopefully, the game between England and Italy will finish in a draw as well. We want the win but one point is better than none and a draw would keep us on top. I'd be happy with that."