FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015

FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015

30 May - 20 June

FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015

Gold and glory on the line in Auckland

The official FIFA U-20 World Cup match ball is seen at the North Harbour Stadium.
© Getty Images

It all comes down to this. After 50 games fought out by 24 hopefuls, only two - Brazil and Serbia - remain in the hunt for the FIFA U-20 World Cup trophy.

However, while the pitting of South America against Europe may be a familiar scenario, there is no doubting which of these two nations is more accustomed to this stage. Brazil, after all, are playing in this final for a ninth time and will start as favourites to claim a record-equalling sixth U-20 World Cup title.

Serbia, on the other hand, are participating in the tournament - never mind the final - for the first time as an independent nation, though their Yugoslavian predecessors did secure a famous win in 1987. They are at this stage very much on merit though and look sure to provide the Brazilians with the toughest of tests.

And if the final is the mouth-watering main course, the starter - an all-African third-place play-off between Mali and Senegal - looks almost as appetising. With a sell-out crowd long since guaranteed at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium, it promises to be a day to remember. FIFA.compreviews the action.

The matches *Senegal-Mali, 20 June 2015, 13.30 local time
*A fraternal bond unites these west African neighbours, and they have something else in common: no-one expected them to get this far. Their spectacular goals and personality-filled displays have won the hearts of Kiwi fans, and there is sure to be plenty of support for both as they battle for bronze.

The duo were left deflated by their semi-final defeats for very different reasons, with Senegal outclassed by Brazil and their Malian counterparts floored in extra time by a Serbia team they had on the ropes. Each goes into the third-place play-off with a key player missing through suspension, too, with Elimane Cisse and Youssouf Kone respectively paying the price for their last-four dismissals. There will still be plenty of talent on show, however, and the teams' coaches have made clear their determination to end a hugely positive tournament on a high.

*Brazil-Serbia, Auckland, 20 June 2015, 17.00 local time *
Finally, the big one, as the brilliance of Brazil meets the spirit and steel of Serbia. The Europeans will undoubtedly start as underdogs and their cause has not been helped by the physical exertions of extra time in each of their three knockout matches. But beyond the togetherness and never-say-die spirit that has underpinned their success - "I have 21 lions," says coach Veljko Paunovic - the Serbians also have talented individuals within a well-balanced side. Goalkeeper and captain Predrag Rajkovic has been one of the tournament's best, while Andrija Zivkovic, Nemanja Maksimovic and Sergej Milinkovic provide class and creativity going forward. And if all else fails, they have a well-established super sub to call upon in the shape of semi-final hero Ivan Saponjic.

Looking at Brazil, though, it is clear why Paunovic believes Serbia will need to play "our best game ever". The difficulties that dogged the South Americans' qualifiers and pre-tournament friendlies seem to be consigned to the past under their new and attack-minded coach. Rogerio Micale has been intent on reviving his nation's reputation for adventurous, flair-filled football, and his players have responded, with the 5-0 demolition of Senegal an awesome example of their potential. With the goalscoring burden shared across the team, and danger threatened from almost every position - from rampaging full-backs to unselfish central midfielders - this *Seleção *side will take some stopping.

Player to watch *Brazilian No10s have always been worth watching at this tournament, with Ronaldinho and Kaka just a couple of the star graduates, and *Gabriel Jesusis maintaining that tradition. Capable of being both graceful and dynamic, the Palmeiras youngster's subtle touches, clever flicks and incisive bursts of acceleration can make leave defences floundering - as Senegal found to their cost. If they are to lift the trophy, Serbia will need to find a way of subduing this skilful *Seleção *starlet.

The stat 502 - The number of consecutive minutes that have now passed since Brazil last conceded at the U-20 World Cup. The South Americans' clean sheet in the 5-0 win over Mali was their fourth on the bounce.

The words *"Brazil are a great team and they're finishing tournament in the best possible form. As for ourselves, three games going to extra time has taken its toll. But my guys are making history here and the incentive of winning the trophy will give them the energy they need," *Veljko Paunovic, Serbia coach.

*Match schedule *20 June 2015 (all times local)
*
Play-off for Third Place
*Senegal-Mali (Auckland, North Harbour Stadium, 13.30)
*
Final
*Brazil-Serbia (Auckland, North Harbour Stadium, 17.00)

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