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Serbia and Montenegro were denied a winner’s medal at the European Championships for Under 21 teams Tuesday, when Danko Lazovic’s side went down 0-3 to Italy. 20,000 fans filled Bochum’s Ruhr Stadium for the final and the atmosphere was electric. But it was the Italians who showed more self-control, taking the lead through De Rossi in the first half, before pulling clear in the last few minutes with goals by Bovo and Gilardino. The Serbs and Montenegrins ended the game with nine men.
The southern Slavs started the game with passion, no doubt in the belief that an early goal would put their opponents off their usual cagy game, but it was the Italians that drew first blood. De Rossi heading home a corner just after the half-hour mark.
And after Predrag Mijalovic picked up his second yellow card only two minutes later it was always going to be tough for Danko Lazovic’s side: ‘Italy almost never gives away a lead and we felt that it would be difficult.’
Italy played with ten men behind the ball and waited patiently for counter opportunities. Despite the lack of space Lazovic carved out a number of fine chances for himself, but wasn’t able to convert them. That set up the Italians to knock in the two late strikes that broke Balkan hearts. Indeed, things got worse when a frustrated Ivanovic was red carded for a series of bad challenges before the end.
‘Italy were better,’ admitted Danko Lazovic. ‘It was a hugely difficult match for us, especially when we went down to ten men. They are deserving champions and I’m okay with that.’
The place in the final meant qualification for the Olympics – certainly not a wooden spoon for the southern Slavs. But Lazovic is still unsure about his own participation. ‘Naturally it’s a great honour for me to play for my country, but Feyenoord will be in a very important phase of preseason then. I won’t and I can’t miss it. I’ll be talking with the people at the FA soon. But first I’m going on holiday!’
EC UNDER 21, FINAL
Italy-Serbia and Montenegro 3-0 (1-0)
1-0 De Rossi (32.)
2-0 Bovo (83.)
3-0 Gilardino (85.)