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08.04.2013, 17:02
Serbia under pressure after double Austria fiasco
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The EHF EURO 2012 runners-up are staring at elimination in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification after dropping three valuable points
 

Serbia under pressure after double Austria fiasco

If Serbia’s 31:28 defeat by Austria in the first of their two EHF EURO 2014 Group 7 qualifiers could have been considered a momentary lapse of concentration, the fortuitous 30:30 draw the Serbians scraped in Zrenjanin on Sunday left no doubt that they are battling a deepening crisis.

The two results mean Serbia have hit their lowest ebb since winning the EHF EURO 2012 silver medal on home turf and reflect a decline epitomised by a poor showing at the London Olympics and January’s 2013 World Championship in Spain.

Apart from dealing a bitter blow to their confidence, collecting only one point from two games against Austria left Serbia facing a tough task to qualify for next year’s tournament in Denmark from a group they were expected to stroll through.

Serbia will in all likelihood need to win both their remaining games, at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina and away to Russia, in order to be mathematically certain of reaching the EHF's flagship event in January.

But the tepid performances against the Austrians left coach Veselin Vuković not only in doubt whether his team can pull it off, but also uncertain about his own future at the national team’s helm.

"We have to move on and when the dust has settled I will have a sit-down with the Serbian Handball Federation chiefs to see whether we are still on the same page," Vuković told reporters after line player Bojan Beljanski scored with only a few seconds remaining to salvage a point against the Austrians.

"We have gifted the Austrians a chance to sneak into the European Championship, as anxiety crept into the team after we missed 12 sitters in a below-par performance," he added.

Captain Momir Ilić, who scored 12 goals in the first match in Vienna and added five in the reverse fixture, made it clear where Serbia kept falling short since they won silver at the EHF EURO 2012.

"We played great defence in that tournament but from there on it’s been a real problem here and a glaring chink in our armour.

"That was an awful performance and we have to raise our game considerably if we are to stand any chance of getting a result in our next game away to Russia.

"The fans were fantastic but we let them and ourselves down," said the THW Kiel left back.

The Austrians, on the other hand, were brimming with confidence after getting just reward for a pair of gutsy performances against their more heralded opponents.

"Everything is in our own hands now and I honestly hope that both Serbia and Austria can qualify for the EHF EURO 2014,” said Austria’s Serbian-born goalkeeper Nikola Marinović, who broke into the spotlight when he played for Red Star Belgrade.

"We were calm and patient in Zrenjanin, my teammates left it all out there while Serbia were slow and predictable in attack," he added.

Ilić outlined Serbia’s defensive problems and things were far from ideal in attack too as the hosts relied on only a handful of scorers to keep them afloat in a high-tempo encounter.

Apart from the their prolific captain, the Serbians can only thank speedy winger Ivan Nikčević (8 goals) and right back Marko Vujin (7) for avoiding what would have been a second embarrassing defeat by the Austrians in just four days.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ts
 
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