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13.11.2015, 16:38
My kingdom for a tall shooter
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EHF EURO INSIGHTS: Highly skilled and gifted with a high number of playmakers, Vujovic combines Slovenian creativity with a solid rock defence
 

My kingdom for a tall shooter

Veselin Vujovic has a problem, but he is trying to laugh it away: The new head coach of the Slovenian national team is desperately seeking a two-metre-tall sharpshooter, who can score from distance.

But the experienced coach cannot create one on his own. “If possible, I would exchange two of my playmakers for one tall back court shooter”, the former World and Olympic champion says with the smile in his face.

Exactly this, the absence of tall back court shooters, had been the problem of all of Vujovic’s predecessors. But since some years the Slovenian side is able to compensate this lack by individual class mainly in one-against-one-situations, speed and scoring from other positions.

At a four nations test tournament in Germany, the start of the EHF EURO 2016 preparation process for Vujovic, Slovenia showed their skills and strength, but definitely did not show all they have.

Key players such as 2015 World Championship top scorer Dragan Gajic, the goalkeepers Primosz Prost and Gorasz Skof, the playmakers Dean Bombac and Sebastian Skube and Matjaz Brumen had not been nominated by the head coach, as it was his clear goal to test the next generation.

And those talents worked well, beating Serbia and Brazil and only had one weak half against Germany (11:17) in the whole tournament.

“In general I am satisfied,” Vujovic said. But those who know him know that he will focus on a stronger defence than the showing against Germany (31 conceded goals).

Too many to choose from

Prior to the EHF EURO in Poland, where the Slovenians will face Sweden, Spain and Germany in the preliminary round in Wroclaw, Vujovic has one luxury problem.

The pool of top players on certain positions is much too large for one squad, such as goalkeeper, where besides Prost and Skof, Matevz Skok and Urban Lesjak are options, rr on the right wing, where usually Gajic is the number one, but he is “hunted” by Veszprem’s counter-attack specialist Gasper Marguc, and even the experienced Vid Kavticnik can play there or at right back.

Even “worse” for Vujovic is the situation at centre back with the Skube brothers, Bezjak, Bombac, Uros Zorman and David Spiler all contending for one spot. Zorman is an option for the left back position like Bombac. No other country has more world class playmakers than Slovenia.

Mostly they are short players, highly skilled in one-against-one situations and high speed breakthroughs, but rarely jump over the opponent’s defence, with the exception of Borut Mackovsek. “He needs to learn to be more concentrated. But as he plays on my former position, I think I will find the means to lecture him,” Vujovic says with another smile.

After reaching the semi-final of the 2013 World Championship in Spain, everybody expected Slovenia to play a more dominant role in the world of handball. However, having failed to reach that stage since, the federation switched from Boris Denic to Veselin Vujovic, known for educating talents and polishing diamonds.

But after being drawn in this tough group at the EHF EURO the first aim is to proceed to the main round. Then the next goal is booking the ticket for the Olympic qualification tournaments.

With a little bit of luck the Slovenians can play without this added pressure, If Qatar win the Asian qualification tournament at the end of November, Slovenia’s eighth position at the World Championship would be enough to reach the final qualification tournaments.

The mid-term aims of Vujovic are set higher: Within the three years, until his contract expires, he wants to fight for medals and titles. Depending on the preliminary results in Wroclaw this goal might already be realistic at EHF EURO 2016.

It is obvious that nearly no opponent have more creative players for the attack than Slovenia. And in defence, Vid Poteko and Matej Gaber have built a solid centre block - with the light problem that Poteko gets suspended too often. An alternative is young Blaz Blagotinsek, another powerful and tall line player.

And one thing is for sure, casting an eye upon the younger generations, Youth Olympic Games gold medallists and U19 World Championship runners-up, the future is bright for Slovenia.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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