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28.12.2011, 23:10
Injury-hit Serbia...
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...still dreaming a podium finish
 

Injury-hit Serbia still dreaming a podium finish

Serbia’s hopes of winning their first handball medal as an independent nation in EHF EURO 2012 have been dented by injuries to some key players but coach Veselin Vukovic said he was still optimistic about the host nation’s chances.

Having stressed that a podium finish would have been a tall order even under the best circumstances, Vukovic now has to deal with an injury crisis as Nikola Manojlovic and Zarko Sesum face a race against time to be fit for the European Championship. 



"We can still dream about winning a medal and our desire is undiminished, although one must say that there are a number of stronger teams than us in the tournament," Vukovic said after naming his provisional 23-man squad.

"We will have to play at the top of our limits to achieve our goal," he added.



While Manojlovic and centre backcourt sharpshooter Petar Nenadic are likely to make a full recovery in time for Serbia’s opening game against Poland in Belgrade’s Pionir Arena, Filip Marjanovic has been ruled out of the tournament and the versatile Sesum is highly doubtful with a painful elbow injury he sustained in a German league match for his club, Rhein Neckar Löwen. 



Although a scan showed he was unlikely to start training before January 10, just five days prior to the start of the tournament, Sesum was confident he would recover sooner than expected. "The doctors always add a week or so as a precaution but I will do my very best to be fit," Sesum said.



"Fortunately, it’s not my shooting arm and I might be OK if I bandage it so I will give it a go," said Serbia’s left backcourt stalwart. 



Nenadic, who plays for Danish side Holstebro, is battling a niggling back injury but expects to be fully fit for EHF EURO 2012. The prolific and versatile 25-year old won the European Under-18 championship with Serbia in 2004 and while he acknowledged repeating the feat at senior level was somewhat unrealistic, he said he expected the passionate home crowd in Belgrade to add wind to Serbia’s sails. 



"We have grown up since that fantastic achievement, some of us have made it through the ranks to the senior team and what we want is to have the same raucous atmosphere in the terraces because it might make the difference between a podium finish and failure," Nenadic said.

"Personally, I am especially motivated for our Preliminary Round Group A match with Denmark and I keep discussing the upcoming encounter with my Holstebro team-mates all the time. We haven’t beaten Denmark in a while and I am really up for it," he added.

With the Pionir Arena sold out for the Preliminary Round, Serbia will certainly get the backing they need by the patriotic home fans against the Danes, whose start-studded outfit figures as one of the tournament’s dark horses to dethrone holders France. 



Vukovic’s decision to leave out long-serving playmaker Mladen Bojinovic is likely to raise a few eyebrows among pundits in Serbia, although the 34-year old is among the seven reserves who will be called upon should injuries further decimate Serbia’s squad. Also among the reserves is talented left wing Jozef Holpert, the son of former Yugoslavia international Jozef Holpert who won the bronze medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. 



The 23-man squad, which faces Romania in a warm-up in Novi Sad’s SPENS Arena on December 29, includes 36-year old centre backcourt debutant Dalibor Cutura, who has been in outstanding form for his Spanish club Ademar Leon this season. 



"It’s never too late to play for your country and I was delighted when coach Vukovic told me he needed a player of my ability after watching my performances in the VELUX EHF Champions League," Cutura said.

"I have played a few friendlies for Serbia and I was also part of the Under-18 tem but I’ve never been involved in a major event at senior level so I am really looking forward to it," he underscored. 



Cutura stood out as the solitary unfamiliar name on Vukovic’s list, meaning that Serbia’s ambitions will largely rest on the prowess of top scorer Momir Ilic and his ability to shift into the centre from his preferred left backcourt position, should he need to act as a playmaker at certain stages. Ilic, a key player for German giants THW Kiel, will need the backing of Veszprem’s right backcourt starter Marko Vujin while Sesum should also figure as an important link in Serbia’s backcourt chain if he recovers in time for the eagerly-awaited event. 



Alem Toskic and Rastko Stojkovic are likely to be ahead of Bojan Beljanski in the pivots’ pecking order, while Darko Stanic is set to retain his position of starting goalkeeper after impressive performances in last month’s Four Nations Cup, held in three of the five EHF EURO 2012 venues as a dress rehearsal for the competition.

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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