- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) - Serbia reached its first Under-20 World Cup final as an independent nation after beating 10-man Mali 2-1 after extra time at North Harbour Stadium on Wednesday.

The Serbians will meet four-time champion Brazil in the final on Saturday.

“We are proud of this great achievement for our country and for our football,” Serbia coach Veljko Paunovic said. “What we brought was our style, our fate that we can be the best we can be.”

The winner came with 20 minutes of extra time left, as Milos Veljkovic’s header found Ivan Saponjic, who nodded the ball past Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra.

Andrija Zivkovic’s early goal set the tone for an imposing Serbian side, before Youssouf Kone’s equalizer helped Mali regain its confidence before halftime.

Mali coach Fanyeri Darra praised his side after conceding the early goal.

“Until the end of the game we believed in our strength to win, but … the inexperience of our players was the main point in our defeat.”

Kone received a second yellow card six minutes from time to all but end Mali’s hopes of victory, and to allow Serbia to hold on.

Kone looked to have pushed referee Mauro Vigliano following his second yellow. He was pulled away by teammates and went behind the goalposts before slowly making his way to the sideline in a bizarre end to an entertaining match.

The winners took the early lead inside four minutes. Zivkovic, who came close twice against the United States in their quarterfinal, was played through by Nemanja Maksimovic.

Serbia continued to dominate early in the half and could have added a second after 13 minutes, but Sergej Milinkovic’s shot was saved off the line by Hamidou Maiga.

Kone was yellow carded for the first time in the 25th, but more than made up for it 14 minutes later when his low strike from 35 yards beat Serbia captain Predrag Rajkovic at the far post.


This story has been corrected to show first goalscorer is Andrija Zivkovic not Nemanja Maksimovic

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