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06.01.2012, 12:31
Fan support will be vital for Serbia
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Sesum is ready to play through the pain to help his side at the EHF EURO.
 

Fan support will be vital for Serbia

High expectations from the home fans and the desire to win their first medal as an independent nation has brought tension in the Serbian camp to boiling point ahead of the upcoming EHF EURO 2012, two of the team’s members told the EHF in an exclusive interview.

Winger Ivan Nikcevic, one of Serbia’s most influential players, said the recent 25:24 defeat by Romania in a warm-up match in Novi Sad had revealed certain weakness which the Serbs must eradicate before their opening Preliminary Round Group A match against Poland in Belgrade’s Pionir Arena on January 15th. 

"We are not worried with the shots we missed against Romania because the important thing is to get it right in our opening match against the Poles. Actually, we are more concerned with some defensive lapses and we are working hard to eradicate them," Nikcevic said.

The speedy winger made it clear in no uncertain terms just how tough a task Serbia faced and stressed that support from what will in all likelihood be a passionate home crowd in Belgrade could make the difference between success and failure.

"The European Championship is incomparably tougher than either the World Championship or the Olympics because it’s the only event where all the top teams take part. Our opening game against Poland could be crucial because victory would take a lot of the pressure off and open many doors. Fan support is vital because home court advantage has regularly been a telling factor in the past. Our performances may largely depend on the level of noise in the terraces and I am confident that we will have the right backing," Nikcevic explained.

Zarko Sesum looked certain to miss the tournament with a painful elbow injury he suffered in a league match for his German match Rhein Neckar Löwen last month. However, his recovery has turned out to be quicker than expected and although he will not actually be back to full fitness until the European Championship is over, the centre backcourt player said he was ready to play through the pain to help the team.

"I am recovering well although the pain will be present for some time to come. But I will strap a bandage around my elbow once the tournament starts and try to ignore the pain," Sesum underscored.

"Tension in the camp is present because we can’t wait for the championship to begin. We are working really hard and all we are thinking of right now is the opening game against Poland," he added.

"Our warm-up match against FYR Macedonia on Sunday is very important because it will be an accurate barometer how far we have come in the build-up period. We need to create a winning atmosphere and give the fans the right impetus to get into a winning mood too."

While most fans and pundits expect Serbia to be one of the medal contenders, Sesum pointed out that a podium finish may be a tall order with all the game’s giants taking part in the tournament.

"Our basic objective is to reach the Main Round because it is going to be a fiercely competitive event but I am sure that everyone will say the same so there can be no excuses if we fail. Friendly matches have shown that all teams will come here hoping to do well and we will need our fans to get behind us like never before in order to be medal contenders," he said.

Serbia’s coach Veselin Vukovic, on the other hand, will seek expert advice from his former mentor Zoran "Tuta" Zivkovic, who will join the team in the role of a special advisor for the final week of the build-up period after the friendly with FYR Macedonia in Smederevo.

"I have complete faith in Zivkovic’s judgment and remarks because we think alike and he coached for me several years, so he could be of great help to our cause," Vukovic told reporters in Serbia’s training camp in Nova Pazova, 30 kilometres north of Belgrade.

He pointed out that versatile backcourt player Nikola Manojlovic was still doubtful with injury, adding that his absence would be a blow to Serbia’s hopes of winning a medal because he was as influential in offence as in defense.

"With him in the team, we have several options on both ends of the court while his absence would force us to change our strategy and that would certainly be an unwelcome task a week before the championship," said Vukovic, who won the gold medal with the former Yugoslavia as a pivot in the 1984 Olympics.

"The upcoming friendlies with FYR Macedonia and Czech Republic will be dress rehearsals for our opening EHF EURO 2012 game against Poland and hence I think it would be counterproductive to play mind games in terms of not fielding our best line-up or trying to keep jokers up our sleeve by not fielding the right formation. This is the time for the finishing touched and everyone on the court must know what they are doing, so we will try to fire on all cylinders in those two games to tune up our engine for the real thing." 

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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