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06.06.2013, 18:01
Vranješ has stalwarts back for crucial doubleheader
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New coach announces squad for Serbia’s EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers
 

Vranješ has stalwarts back for crucial doubleheader

Serbia coach Ljubomir Vranješ has announced his final squad of 17 players to face Russia in Astrakhan on 12 June and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Niš four days later, a crucial doubleheader for the EHF EURO 2012 runners-up in their bid to qualify for the 2014 edition in Denmark.

The Serbians, who won their first handball medal as an independent nation on home soil in last year’s championship, got off to a flying start in EHF EURO 2014 qualifying with back-to-back wins over Russia and the Bosnians, erasing the bitter memories of failure in the London Olympics and  the 2013 World Championship in Spain.

But collecting only one point from two games against unheralded Austria has left them flirting with elimination and also led to the departure of coach Veselin Vuković, who was replaced by former trophy-laden Sweden centre back Vranješ.

The stocky 39-year-old coach, born in Gothenburg and has Serbian parents, now faces a tricky test on his debut at Serbia’s helm but is no stranger to pressure, having been in charge at Bundesliga side Flensburg-Handewitt since 2009.

Momir Rnić, who has had an outstanding season with Göppingen in the Bundesliga, gave his account of Serbia’s new coach and expressed confidence they would come out on top in their last two games.

“Vranješ is an exceptionally positive character and the first thing he told us was that rather than thinking about how to sneak into EHF EURO 2014 through the back door as one of the best third-placed teams, we should go out there and crush the Russians in order to win the group and qualify in style,” Rnić was quoted as saying by Belgrade daily Sportski Žurnal.

“I think his positive attitude and the injection of fresh blood that he personifies can do wonders for us and the Serbian Handball Federation chiefs did the righting by naming him the new coach,” Rnić added.

Vranješ will have more or less the best Serbia can offer at his disposal for the games against Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, with stalwarts Nikola Manojlović and Rastko Stojković returning to international action.

Inspirational left back Momir Ilić, who had contemplated quitting the national team amid Serbia’s flagging fortunes in qualifying, is also among the veterans expected to spearhead the effort to reach next year’s tournament.

Ivan Nikčević, Alem Toskić and Uroš Mitrović will be missing due to prior commitments while the immensely talented Petar Djordjić, who plays for Flensburg, is still nursing a niggling knee injury.

However, Serbia will be buoyed by the presence of talismanic goalkeeper Darko Stanić, who was named in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2012/13 All-star team.

Stanić had also considered international retirement during the turmoil resulting from Serbia’s fiasco against the Austrians, which has left them third in their qualifying group with five points from four games.

Perhaps Serbia’s best hope of finishing the qualifying campaign on a high note is the good form of right back Marko Vujin, who had an impressive VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, despite the fact that THW Kiel relinquished their crown and lost both games.

Serbia are currently behind Austria, who also have five points, while Russia top the group with six points and hence the final two rounds of matches should produce fascinating contests around Europe as the race to qualify for the 16-nation tournament in Denmark heads for a dramatic climax.

Serbia squad for the EHF EURO qualifiers on 12 and 16 June:

Goalkeepers: Darko Stanić (Metalurg Skopje), Slaviša Djukanović (Saint Raphael), Mihailo Radovanović (Partizan Belgrade).

Wingers: Nemanja Ilić (Partizan Belgrade), Filip Marjanović (Metaloplastika Šabac), Rajko Prodanović (Pick Szeged), Bogdan Radivojević (Partizan Belgrade).

Back court: Marko Vujin (THW Kiel), Nemanja Zelenović (Pivovarna Celje), Momir Ilić (THW Kiel), Momir Rnić (Goeppingen), Nikola Manojlović (Cimos Koper), Petar Nenadić (Wisla Plock), Draško Nenadić (Guadalajara).

Line players: Rastko Stojković (Vive Targi Kielce), Bojan Beljanski (Goeppingen), Mihajlo Marsenić (Partizan Belgrade).


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor
 
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