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29.10.2012, 17:10
Serbia to inject fresh blood for EHF EURO 2014
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Coach Veselin Vuković says stalwarts must make way for young lions
 

Serbia to inject fresh blood for EHF EURO 2014

Regarding results on the big stage, Serbia were in the wilderness for a whole decade before they won their first handball medal as an independent nation at the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 in January, when they finished second on home soil.

The success, which exceeded the expectations of fans, players and the coaching staff, piled the pressure on the Serbian team which then underperformed at the London Olympics when they missed out on a quarter-final berth.

Their coach Veselin Vuković, hailed as a hero after the EHF EURO 2012 success but criticised after poor performances in London, now faces a two-fold task of doing well at the upcoming 2013 World Championship in Spain as well as qualifying for EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark.

Having made the final cut as he named a 20-man squad to face Russia at home on Wednesday (31 October) and Bosnia-Herzegovina away on November 4, Vuković underscored the World Championship in January would spell the end of an era for Serbia.

„It is the last competition in which we will put ourselves under pressure to do well because we have to inject fresh blood into the team, as the change of generations is imminent,“ he told Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti in an interview.

„When I extended my contract with the Serbian Handball Federation (RSS), shortly before the Olympic Games, the idea was to bring young players into the team and start a new era.

"That was imminent even if we had done better in London, where several key players struggled with injuries and we failed to reproduce the intensity which carried us to the silver medal at EURO 2012,“ Vuković added.

Several instrumental players in Serbia’s squad, including captain Momir Ilic, are over 30, while playmaker Dalibor Čutura, who is 38, seems to be the first casualty of Vuković’s new strategy as he was left out of the EURO 2014 qualifiers against Russia and Bosnia.

A good start is vital

The 53-year old coach acknowledged it would be vital to make a good start in order to speed up the process of introducing young players into the team, but that will be easier said than done for his team decimated by injuries.

„Two wins would put us in the driving seat to reach the European Championship but one must bear in mind that Russia has more registered handball players than we do inhabitants,“ he said.

„The Bosnians are also a decent team and they will certainly make life difficult for us in front of a passionate home crowd.“

Serbia will miss injured right wing Rajko Prodanović and playmaker Nikola Manojlović, while left back Momir Rnić, pivot Rastko Stojković and goalkeeper Strahinja Milić are doubtful and likely to miss the opening game against Russia in Niš.

Vuković is neverthless confident the new-look young team in the making has a bright future after impressive performances in a pair of recent friendlies in Germany.

„A team full of debutants overran a German side which was at full strength in the first game and narrowly lost the other. The young players who put on a Serbia shirt for the first time in their careers were craving for the ball to take responsibility at crunch time and that’s what I always want to see in the national team,“ he stressed.

„They have perfect role models to look up to, such as Momir Ilić who can’t be told to that practice is finished when he is fit. He is as hungry as when he started playing handball and that’s how high the bar is – no one can make the team on past merits,“ Vuković said in conclusion.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ts
 
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