Serbia claimed the UEFA European Under-19 Championship title for the first time as Andrija Luković’s calm second-half finish settled a tight final against France in Marijampole.
Both sides had chances in an even first 45 minutes, yet the deadlock was not broken until Luković slotted in early in the second period. France – seeking their third title at this level – tried to rally, but a well-drilled Serbian rearguard held firm, denying their opponents clear openings and space in the final third to spark jubilant scenes of celebration at full time.
Having each played extra time in their semi-finals, it was perhaps understandable that both teams opened cautiously, although the pattern of the match might have been different had France forward Corentin Jean not pulled the first opening of the evening across goal in the eighth minute. At the other end, Aleksandar Mitrović turned smartly, but his subsequent shot drifted over, a fate France’s Anthony Martial also suffered in similar circumstances later in the half.
Uroš Djurdjević did manage to get his shot on target after the ball had broken to him inside the France penalty area, Quentin Beunardeau saving comfortably, and then latched on to Mitrović’s clever header only to opt for a return pass instead of a shot. As quickly as it had come the opening was gone. Larry Azouni’s pass provided a glimpse of goal for Jordan Ikoko; the France right-back prodded wide.
Twelve minutes after half-time, Luković was not so forgiving. Marko Pavlovski’s cross cleared Antoine Conte and found Mitrović; although his first touch took him wide, the No14 had the presence of mind to pull the ball back for the midfielder to sidefoot in. Serbia swiftly pressed for a second but were almost caught out on the counterattack when Jean and Yassine Benzia combined to set up Adrien Hunou; Predrag Rajković blocked the shot.
Suitably roused, France continued to press, with goalkeeper Rajković spilling a fierce Benzia drive and substitutes Lenny Nangis and Kevin Rodrigues trying their luck from range, their efforts blocked and wayward respectively. Six days ago Serbia had found a late equaliser against France in Group B; this time Ljubinko Drulović’s team resisted attempts to turn the tables and, after one last scare when Benzia curled a free-kick too high, held out to finally claim the trophy.