WELLINGTON: Five-time champions Brazil trounced Senegal 5-0 on Wednesday to set up a FIFA Under-20 World Cup final against Serbia, who edged past Mali 2-1 with a late winner.
Brazil outclassed Senegal to reach the decider of the tournament in Auckland on Saturday, giving them the chance to equal arch-rival Argentina’s record of six youth trophies.
Serbia have not reached the final since 1987, when they played under the name Yugoslavia, and had to battle past Mali team in a fast-paced match.
It was an emphatic return to form for Brazil, whose coach Rogerio Micale admitted they were lucky to stay in the tournament after advancing on penalties following 0-0 draws in their previous two matches.
Micale said the performance against a well-drilled Senegal was a huge confidence boost for his players going into the final. “Our team has reinvented itself in this match,” he said. “Both our defence and offence have been amazing.”
The Samba Kings turned on the style with four first-half goals, then cruised home against a 10-man Senegal with Marcos Guilherme scoring his second of the match 12 minutes from time.
Serbia cruised to a 2-1 win over Mali in the group stages but were not given an easy ride in the semi-final, despite Andrija Zivkovic putting them ahead in the fourth minute.
Zivkovic, 18, the youngest player to ever earn a senior cap for Serbia, outpaced the Mali defence before calmly slotting past the keeper.
Youssouf Kone equalised for the Africans five minutes from half time with a screaming left-foot shot from long range that caught Serbia totally unprepared.
Souleymane Diarra almost had another with a similar effort just a minute later but this time goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic got a fingertip to the ball.
Mali dominated the second-half but could not convert their chances and the match went to extra time, with Ivan Saponjic heading the winner in the 101st minute.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2015.
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