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18.06.2013, 12:57
Montenegro back in the big time
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Surprise victories over Germany laid the groundwork for a second EHF EURO appearance
 

Montenegro back in the big time

For the second time in the nation’s short history of independence, Montenegro men's handball team have qualified for the EHF EURO final tournament.

They will play in their second EHF EURO competition in a Scandinavian country, Denmark, after making their debut at the 2008 event in Norway.

Six years ago, on the road to Norway, Montenegro left behind Finland, Netherlands, Austria and finally Portugal in the play-offs, but the challenge appeared much more difficult this time around, with Germany and Czech Republic being the large favourites on paper.

However, the team led by coach Zoran Kastratović were probably the biggest surprise of the qualifiers, doing the double over Germany to knock them out and finishing second on goal difference behind Czech Republic.

The key victory was in November 2012 in Mannheim against Germany (31:27), a feat which they repeated in front of their home fans with a 27:25 win, leaving Germany out of the EHF EURO final tournament for the first time.

The success was even bigger because Montenegro played the second game against Germany without the likes of Zoran Roranović and Vladimir Osmajić, who were playing in Qatar, while Fahridin Melić decided to retire from international handball before the final qualification games.

"If the game in Mannheim was a surprise, then we certainly shocked people with the result in Podgorica.

“The Germans had to win the game and that was to our advantage. We used all our resources to win the game and secured a place at the EHF EURO.

“It needless to mention what a success this is. Perhaps in the coming years we will be aware of what we have done against Germany,” Montenegro coach Zoran Kastratović said.

Montenegro captain Draško Mrvaljević believes that there is a bright future ahead for the team.

“I'm happy for the guys who will represent our country at 2014 EHF EURO in Denmark. We have shown that we have the right team and that some players can play for the national team even without the experience.

“The Montenegrin national team has the quality and great heart, all you need to play handball,” Mrvaljević said.

The game against Germany was the last for left wing Petar Kapisoda, one of the all-time great Montenegro players, who decided to end his playing career.

“Even Steven Spielberg couldn’t have directed a better end to my career. It was the best possible gift from my teammates,” 36-old Kapisoda said.

Montenegro will be in pot 4 for the EHF EURO 2014 final tournament draw on Friday, 21 June in Herning, Denmark


TEXT: Saša Jončić / cor
 
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