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29.01.2013, 15:48
Ilić to leave national team after EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers
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Serbia's team captain says he needs a break from international handball
 

Ilić to quit Serbia after EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers

Serbia’s failure to advance into the World Championship's quarter-finals appears to have resulted in residual effects on the team, whose captain Momir Ilić said he would play no part at EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark next January should the Balkan country qualify.

Several other players, namely goalkeeper Darko Stanić, middle back Nenad Vučković and pivot Alem Toskić hinted they might follow in Ilić’s footsteps to give upcoming talents a chance to shine on the big stage.

"I am the ultimate patriot and I can never turn down my country, but I will definitely not play in next year’s European Championship if we qualify and I made this decision before the World Championship in Spain," Ilić told Belgrade daily Sporstki Žurnal.

"I have also notified the Serbian Handball Federation of my plans to take a break from international handball, while I will decide in the next month or so whether I will stick around for the upcoming qualifying doubleheader against Austria," he said.

The 31-year-old left back, who steered Serbia to the EHF EURO 2012 silver medal on home court and also played a key role in amassing several trophies for German and VELUX EHF Champions League title holders THW Kiel, made it clear that playing at the top level for nearly a decade had taken its toll.

"I’ve always played for Serbia with a lot of pride in my heart and gave all I had in every match, even if I wasn’t always at my best.

"Hence I need to take a break to preserve my health because I’ve been playing in the Bundesliga for seven years now and it’s also time for young players to step up to the plate," said Ilić.

He also dismissed reports of a row in the Serbian team between the players and coach Veselin Vuković, who at one point seemed to suggest the senior players let him down at crunch time.

"Tension runs high when you lose a match and sometimes words are not chosen very carefully in such circumstances, but we straightened things out and the coach told us in a team meeting that he never meant to look down on any of us.

"We had an outstanding atmosphere during the tournament but we underachieved because there is not enough depth in the squad."

"You need more than 10 players to perform on top of their limits throughout a major tournament to win a medal, we only had a solid starting line-up coupled with a lot of inexperienced youngsters on the bench and the lack of depth began to bite at crunch time," Ilić said in conclusion.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ts
 
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