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09.04.2012, 19:10
Serbia and Croatia reach Women's Junior World Championship
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Balkan neighbours Serbia and Croatia have qualified for the 2012 Women’s Junior World Championship held in the Czech Republic
 

Serbia and Croatia reach women’s junior world champs

Balkan neighbours Serbia and Croatia reached the IHF 2012 women’s junior world championship, to be held in the Czech Republic from 1-15 July, after they took the top two positions in their qualifying group.

The three-day tournament held in the central Serbian town of Pozega during Easter weekend was a credit to international handball in more ways than one, not least for the outstanding quality of handball displayed by four eastern European teams vying for two world championship berths.

Hosts Serbia made a perfect start to their qualifying campaign with an emphatic 29:18 win over Ukraine in the opening match and Croatia followed in their footsteps with a 37:25 defeat of Bulgaria after they were tied 15:15 at halftime.

Serbia then beat Bulgaria 38:10 and effectively qualified for the world championship as Tamara Tomanic netted eight goals for the winners and Croatia also booked their berth with a tight 24:23 win over Ukraine, who finished third after earning a consolation 35:20 success against the Bulgarians in the final day’s opening match.

Having booked their passage to the showpiece event in the Czech Republic, Serbia and Croatia threw caution to the wind in a spectacular encounter which will be remembered for sportsmanship on the terraces when these two nations from the former Yugoslavia play each other in any sport.

Driven by the unstoppable Sandra Filipovic, who topped the scoring charts with seven goals to her name, Serbia won the match 28:24 but it was the Croatians who got a standing ovation from a capacity 1,000 home crowd after the final whistle.

The Croatian team returned to the court from the dressing rooms for an encore from the appreciative crowd, who also applauded their national anthem before the game started and then duly cheered on Serbia from the top of their lungs throughout the entertaining clash between two talented teams.

"This crowd in Pozega has always shown the utmost respect for rival teams and we are delighted to have booked our world championship berth here because we had trained in this town for the last four years," Serbia coach Zoran Valdevit told the country’s media after the match.

"Fans here know handball and I am overjoyed that the girls showed will-power and character against Croatia, as we had already secured our passage to the world championship before the game," he said. "We will go to the Czech Republic determined to be the tournament’s surprise package and I think we have a good chance if we get a kind draw. We have to keep working hard to improve in all segments, particularly in defence because strong defence is always likely to result in fast breaks and easy goals," Valdevit pointed out.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic
 
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