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31.12.2015, 13:40
New-look Serbia aim to turn the page
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EHF EURO 2016 COUNTDOWN #2: Serbia face the EHF EURO 2016 challenge without Momir Ilic and Marko Vujin, however, there will be a lot to look forward to from this new-look team in Poland
 

New-look Serbia aim to turn the page

All successful journeys have to start somewhere, and Serbia’s EHF EURO 2016 campaign will be the opportunity to set the right foundation for years to come.

The Serbian national team will embark upon their fourth consecutive EHF EURO campaign deprived of its biggest stars, but with collective strength rather than individual skills as the driving force.

Moreover, coach Dejan Peric was adamant to prove his actions speak louder than words, by crossing underperforming THW Kiel star Marko Vujin off his list of 28 players, and the edge was given to players who have proven to be worth their salt on the road to the EHF EURO 2016.

The team’s strength

Aided by the return of the EHF EURO 2012 silver medallists Darko Stanic and Zarko Sesum, Serbia now have a team again. The players are enjoying a positive, hard-working atmosphere, relishing a chance to play without pressure, while togetherness and cohesion have now become the focal point.

Moreover, the new generation headlined by the returnees Zarko Sesum and Petar Nenadic, as well as the youngsters Nemanja Zelenovic, Nemanja Ilic, Bogdan Radivojevic, Vanja Ilic, Mijajlo Marsenic and the likes have played well together since their youth days – a quality only the top teams have.

With some of the best individuals out of the picture, any success Serbian team may have will spring from the very basic approach and its efficient execution.

The team’s weakness

The most obvious disadvantage to the new-look Serbian team is the lack of a marquee outfield player. The absence of a new, established back court leader is likely to add up to Serbia’s troubles, especially as the absence of the quintessential left back Momir Ilic has left a gaping hole in all phases of the game.

Moreover, since taking over the national team, coach Peric was left with very little time to find and prepare suitable alternatives for the aging back court with the likes of Momir Ilic (injured), Marko Vujin (not selected), Dalibor Cutura (retired) and Nenad Vuckovic (injured) who are now out of the team.

The issue unfortunately points to a deeper problem, as all responsibility is at the hands of players still fairly inexperienced at the national team level; with a daunting task of working against clock to step up their game, in a bid make up for the absentees.

The team’s star

The absence of Momir Ilic has left the team in quest for a new leader, and albeit Ilic’s influence cannot be directly replaced nor replicated, the Serbian set-up already offers a viable alternative to make up for his game changing potential.

The biggest individual strength of the Serbian team lies in goal, in the name of Darko Stanic. Moreover, Stanic is a player whose skill and passion has been a key ingredient to any success the team had in the past, and should thrive in the concept under Dejan Peric, who himself was a legendary goalkeeper.

More importantly, the sheer presence of Stanic between the Serbian posts is bound intimidate even the best shooters in the game today, while his unique skillset can give a huge confidence boost to the Serbian defence which can be the difference between success and failure in decisive moments.

The team’s hidden gem

Not many players in the Serbian set-up fall into the ‘not so well-known category’, with 11 players representing various VELUX EHF Champions League sides. However, many are yet to prove their merit in the national team, and certain big names fall into that category; most notably Petar Nenadic.

Despite his undisputed talent and feel for the game, Nenadic has fallen short of providing consistent performances for Serbia, having to suffice with only a bit-part role in his previous campaigns with the national team.

However, 2015 has been a breakthrough year for him as the Bundesliga top scorer (125 goals) is playing in the form of his life for Füchse Berlin, showcasing his vast potential and the ability to both score and assist.

Serbia have been desperate for a world-class centre back, and if his club performances are anything to go by, Nenadic’s new-found form will be a perfect asset at the right time, taking over the baton as he reaches his career prime.

The outlook

In a nutshell, the preliminary round draw was not favourable for Serbia, and if they can master only one win against the likes of FYR Macedonia, Poland or France, a way into the Main Round will look quite likely, and the EHF EURO 2016 will be a success story, regardless of the final outcome.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
 
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