Serbia captain Branislav Ivanović believes the effort his side displayed in Arnhem was the reason they defeated Belgium to reach the U21 final once again.
Serbia captain Branislav Ivanović believes the effort his side displayed in their semi-final in Arnhem was the reason they overcame Belgium to reach the UEFA European Under-21 Championship final again.
Full of heart
The FC Lokomotiv Moskva centre-back was selected as the Carlsberg Man of the Match by UEFA's technical study group for a typically towering display at the heart of the Serbian defence at the Gelredome. His partnership with Duško Tošić provided the foundation for a victory achieved through a goal in either half from Aleksandar Kolarov and Dragan Mrdja. For Ivanović, however, hard work was at the root of the result. "I think you'll find our hearts on the pitch, we gave everything," he told uefa.com. "We believed we would win and we deserved the victory. We put all our individual qualities at the service of the team. I'm very happy and proud and I know all the other players share those exact same feelings."
Ivanović is one of three players left in the Serbia squad – the injured Miloš Krasić was the fourth – who was in the squad that lost the 2004 final to Italy in Bochum. With eight survivors from last year's party involved again this time round, he believes that experience has been crucial to Serbia's success. "We're enjoying this a lot, so many of our players have lots of experience. The second part of our 'secret' is that we like working hard; we enjoy working together and that gives us self-confidence when we play."
Even those players who are relative newcomers to the squad have made a healthy contribution, the Serbia captain explained: "Personally getting to the final again means so much for me but it's interesting if you look at our players - they're all leaders within their clubs. Even those who don’t have much experience, they learn to be important figures on the pitch. When you learn that, it makes you a strong team and hard to beat."
Hosts the Netherlands are now all that stands between Serbia and their first U21 crown since 1978, when as part of the former Yugoslavia they overcame the Democratic Republic of Germany in the first final. In the euphoria of victory their captain was reluctant to turn his attention to the final in Groningen, telling uefa.com: "The Netherlands are very strong, but tonight is not the right time to think about them. We will on Thursday. I've seen all three of their group games and we'll study them some more. They're obviously a good team, they have so many qualities but we never think about our opponents too much. We look for the power inside ourselves."