- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) - Serbia coach Veljko Paunovic hoped his team’s victory at the Under-20 World Cup will help inspire “compassion and unity” in a country still troubled by its war-torn past.

Sitting next to the World Cup trophy at a news conference after Serbia’s 2-1 extra time win over Brazil, Paunovic delivered an emotional statement he said was aimed directly to people back home.

“As a team we wanted to send a message at this tournament, a message of unity and kindness,” he said. “In Serbia, we are still living this style of life after 20 years of struggle, of difficulty. I am hoping that what we have achieved here might be the beginning of a new era for Serbia, of living a life of good values and unity.”

Paunovic also hoped Saturday’s victory might help usher in a new era for Serbian football. Its first U20 title as an independent nation came after its victory last year at the European Under-19 championships. Paunovic said there was no reason those twin successes should not carry over to senior national team.

“This result is the consequence of a project which has been built over several years,” he said. “We have started well and now we have to build. This trophy gives us confidence and also gives us credibility which is very important.”

While Serbia was the underdog in the final, Brazil coach Rogerio Micale had said at the start of the tournament that the team should be reckoned with.

“If you look back at the first interview I gave at this World Cup, I was asked which team might be the team to surprise everyone and I said that team would Serbia,” Micale said.

He said while Saturday’s loss was disappointing, the future for Brazil was also bright.

“I leave New Zealand and this World Cup with good sensations and good feelings about what we have done,” Micale said. “We are just starting work (with these players) and that will probably make some good things for Brazil in the future.”



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