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06.11.2011, 11:21
Serbia delights home fans in Four Nations Cup
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Great victory over neighbours Croatia in a thrilling match.
 

Serbia delights home fans in Four Nations Cup

Day two of the Four Nations Cup fully lived up to expectations as hosts Serbia bounced back from their opening day defeat to Hungary with a 22:20 win over old rivals Croatia, sending into raptures a passionate 4,500 home crowd in Belgrade’s Pionir Arena.

In the day’s other game, the Hungarians beat the Czech Republic 26:25 to put themselves in the driving seat to win the tournament ahead of the final day in the Millennium Hall in the northern town of Vrsac.

Having lost to the Hungarians 32:25 in Niš on Thursday, the Serbs produced an incomparably better performance against Croatia and gave themselves a major confidence boost ahead of EHF EURO 2012 which will be held in four Serbian cities in January.

The Pionir Arena, where the host nation will play their Preliminary Round Group A games against Poland, Denmark and Slovakia, is set to provide a perfect environment for the early stages of the competition with its spacious interior and refurbished press centre.

Just as importantly, the highly acoustic venue will undoubtedly generate a cracking atmosphere akin to fervent support which Serbian basketball champions Partizan Belgrade enjoy in the Euroleague, the continent’s premier club competition.

Early jitters seemed to have crept into Serbia and Croatia as both sides missed several sitters in the opening stages before the visitors, who were warmly applauded by the home crowd after their national anthem was played, took a 4:2 lead after 10 minutes.

Roared on by the home fans, including a vociferous band from the city of Smederevo which seems to be following the home team throughout the Four Nations Cup with their giant drum and banners, Serbia turned the tide and never looked back after nosing ahead 8:7 thanks to a string of superb saves from goalkeeper and man of the match Darko Stanic.

The Serbs led 11:9 at halftime and kept their foot on the gas pedal after the interval, with Momir Ilic and Marko Vujin scoring 17 goals between them against a bedazzled Croatian defence.

Ilic, who added bite to Serbia’s attack after missing the defeat to Hungary with a niggling injury, finished as the game’s top scorer with nine goals. Vujin had eight after an impressive second-half performance but it was Stanic who received a standing ovation from the home fans and picked up the man-of-the-match award after pulling off 15 saves.

Ilic and Serbia’s coach Veselin Vukovic were overjoyed with the team’s performance. "It was a very good match with very few goals by today’s handball standards, but that was because both teams played tough defence," Ilic said.

"We are especially delighted with a very mature performance in the closing stages of the match because it’s kind of unlike us, we are inconsistent at crunch time more often than not. We now want to beat the Czech Republic in our final match to give ourselves a further lift ahead of the European Championship," he added.

Vukovic praised the partisan home crowd. "We knew we had to earn their support with a committed performance after a poor display against the Hungarians, who are playing the best handball in this tournament," Serbia’s coach told reporters.

"We had a team meeting until five o’clock in the morning after the defeat to the Hungarians and vowed there to step up our efforts because lack of commitment is unacceptable no matter what," Vukovic underscored.

His Croatian opposite number Slavko Goluza heaped praise on Serbia’s goalkeeper Darko Stanic. "We missed a lot of sitters but all credit to Stanic, his string of superb saves cost us the game. I am reasonably happy with our 5-1 defence but we have work to do in order to improve in attack, unfortunately it will be a race against time when the final preparations for EHF EURO 2012 start two weeks before the tournament," Goluza said.

The Hungarians picked up where they left off in Niš and quickly raced to a 12:5 lead against the Czechs, but then nearly blew their seven-goal lead as the Czech Republic gradually closed in to force a dramatic finish.

It was a game of two goalkeepers, both of whom were named man-of-the-match for their respective teams as Czech Martin Galia pulled down 22 saves while his opposite number Roland Mikler had 20.

Hungary winger Attila Vadkerti led all scorers with nine goals, while David Juricek and Karel Nocar netted five each for the Czechs.

Serbia plays the Czech Republic in the opening game of the tournament’s final day in Vrsac on Sunday, while Croatia meets with Hungary in what promises to be a spectacular finale to a high-quality tournament.

Further information

Download the Official EHF EURO 2012 Playing Schedule (pdf)

Buy your EHF EURO 2012 tickets HERE.

Ticketing is managed by the Serbian Organising Committees. Should you need further assistance for buying your tickets, please contact via email: tickets@rss.org.rs

Find more information on the tournament on the official website www.ehf-euro.com/SRB2012/

Join the growing community of fans of the event on Facebook www.facebook.com/SRB2012


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic
 
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