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04.01.2013, 10:53
Serbia’s Vuković relying on fresh blood
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Coach and goalkeeper expect young players to shine
 

Serbia’s Vuković relying on fresh blood

Serbia are heading towards this month’s IHF World Championship in Spain buoyed by the fact that winning the EHF EURO 2012 silver medal on home court ended a decade-long barren spell at international events.

However, several stalwarts from the team that reached the final of the EHF EURO will miss the upcoming 24-team event after a poor showing at the 2012 London Olympics, where Serbia finished fifth in their preliminary pool and failed to reach the quarter-final.

Their coach Veselin Vuković, a former Yugoslavia line player who won the 1984 Olympic gold medal and the 1986 World Championship, acknowledged that injecting fresh blood into the team was necessary to reinvigorate Serbia’s game and make an impact in Spain.

“The young players have blended in seamlessly and thus injected the fresh blood that we might have lacked in the Olympics,” Vuković told Serbian sports daily Sportski Žurnal.

“Their hunger for success gives us hope that we can do well in the World Championship but we don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on our shoulders because we are not one of the tournament favourites.

“The only favourites are teams capable of winning the gold medal, while eight or nine others, including ourselves, will in all likelihood be vying for a podium finish,” admitted Vuković.

Serbia are in a finely balanced Group C including fellow European rivals Poland, Belarus, and Slovenia, as well as Asian opponents South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Having pointed out that Serbia needed to win the group in order to avoid a heavyweight clash in the last 16, the first knockout stage of the competition, Vuković stressed it would be no easy task.

“Poland are also rebuilding their team so they will be a bit of an unknown quantity, while Slovenia are doing tremendous work and are right up there with the game’s most respectable teams.

“But Belarus still represents completely uncharted territory because we have only seen them twice on tape.

“Of course, South Korea are the Asian champions and will once again be a stern test of our credentials, like they were in the Olympics when we narrowly beat them,” added Vuković.

Goalkeeper Darko Stanić, one of the heroes of Serbia’s impressive EHF EURO 2012 campaign, left no room for doubt just how much Olympic failure has galvanised the team to do well in Spain.

“It rang the alarm bells and we must now prove our worth again to ourselves and to other teams,” he said.

“The young lads who broke into the roster for this tournament will give us the required energy boost and it might make all the difference in the World Championship,” Stanić emphasised.

In their two warm-up matches last week, an understrength Serbian team, still missing several key players who will join the team on January 6, beat Romania 29:23 thanks to seven goals from left wing Ivan Nikčević and five by centre back Petar Nenadić.

Serbia followed that game with a loss as they were overpowered 37:31 by Hungary.

Right back Marko Vujin led Serbia in that game with seven goals while right wing Rajko Prodanović added six.

Serbia will play another two friendly matches this weekend against FYR Macedonia on Saturday and Egypt on Sunday.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor
 
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