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01.01.2016, 15:00
Slovenia hunt for this one tall player ahead of EHF EURO
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #3: Slovenia head coach Veselin Vujovic has a plethora of very good handball players at his disposal, however the vast majority of them might just lack one skill that you cannot train at all
 

Slovenia hunt for this one tall player ahead of EHF EURO 

Since their EHF EURO silver in 2004, Slovenia have been waiting for another medal in any major handball competitions.

With Veselin Vujovic being the new head coach, the hope is there that time is ripe. However, a tough group in the preliminary round may stand in the way of a shot at the medal ranks at the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland.

The team's strength

No team in the world has a higher number of brilliant playmakers. Veselin Vujovic can choose between big names such as Uros Zorman, Dean Bombac, Sebastian Skube and Miha Zarabec, all of them are part of the 21-player squad that started its preparation at the end of December. Another position, where the pool of stars is impressive, is on the right wing. Dragan Gajic and Gasper Marguc represent pure international class.

But the biggest strength of Slovenia is not connected to a position, but to tradition: Because they lack tall shooters and because the nation’s clubs do not belong to the financially best-equipped, the Slovenian youth programme works exceptionally well. All players have huge individual skills, mixing the old Yugoslav handball school with modern elements such as counter attacks, the most important weapon in attack. Furthermore the players’ individual skills provide them with great strengths in one-against-one actions.

The team's weakness

For many years Slovenia have been on the hunt for a two-metre tall shooter, who can easily score from nine or ten metres. Because they still have not found one, the team of Veselin Vujovic lacks options in attack and has to focus on counter attacks and one-against-one situations. “If possible, I would exchange two playmakers against a tall shooter,” Vujovic recently said in joking fashion.  

Currently Borut Mackovsek is the only player in his squad who – at 2.04 metres – is one of the tall players Vujovic is looking for. But the 23-year-old needs more stability – physically and mentally – to become a key player for the Slovenians. Another weakness is the high number of suspensions defenders such as Vid Poteko and Blaz Blagontinsek often a time receive. Hence, Slovenia many a time are one man down.

The team's star

71 goals in nine World Championship matches was the impressive tally of Dragan Gajic at Qatar 2015 which made him the event’s top scorer. Gajic is not only by far the best scorer of his team in general, he also plays an important tactical role. Knowing that his percentage of scoring from counter attacks is extremely high, his teammates can save some valuable energy.

Gajic is the leader of the huge number of Slovenian counter attack specialists such as Gasper Marguc or Luka Zvizej. And Gajic is not only the best counter attack weapon of his team, but also as a man without nerves from the penalty line. Nowadays he leads a Slovenian block of players at Montpellier, a club that boasts more national team players than some Slovenian teams.

The hidden gem

To find a hidden gem in a team full of gems is not that easy – especially as nearly all Slovenian players play on international courts with their clubs sides, most of them even in the VELUX EHF Champions League. But definitely one player set to shine in future is Borut Mackovsek. The 23-year-old left back is of Vujovic's hopefuls - not only but also because of his height. 

Mackovsek made his intenational debut already at the age of 19. He started his handball career in Celje but very early embarked on a journey that has already taken him through half of Europe and beyond. In the past two years he has already played for Al-Sadd in Qatar, Hannover-Burgdorf in Germany, Dinamo Minsk in Belarus and Celje again after Minsk went down following financial troubles.

In the summer of 2014 he joined Montpellier, but since December 2015 his current club is Eisenach in Germany. "He plays on my former position, so I can teach him a lot," says head coach Vujovic.

The outlook

The prediction for Slovenia is the same as for all teams of Group C:  An early flight home can occur, but also the semi-final is possible. Mastermind Veselin Vujovic might be the ace up the sleeve for the Slovenians, who have a good mixture of experienced and young players.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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