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29.11.2016, 08:41
Montenegro head to Sweden with the future in mind
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TEAM CHECK MONTENEGRO: After a disappointing Rio 2016, head coach Dragan Adzic has the task of not only rebuilding the team but also of restoring confidence in squad in the run up to the Women's EHF EURO
 

Montenegro head to Sweden with the future in mind

Montenegro are heading into their fourth consecutive appearance at EHF EURO. In 2010 in Denmark and Norway, on their debut, the Montenegrins finished sixth, two years later in Serbia they won the gold medal, while two years ago in Croatia and Hungary, Montenegro missed out on winning a medal, finishing fourth.

For first time in the six years, Montenegro are not among the favourites for a top position at an EHF EURO event. And the reason for this is? Dragan Adzic is bringing a significantly altered, rejuvenated team, without lot of stars to Sweden; this is seen as a first step on the long road to Tokyo 2020.

As Adzic announced, Montenegro will play in Sweden without pressure, in order to nurture some up-and-coming players for future competitions.

The roster

Only four players from the team who participated at 2010 EHF EURO will play in Sweden – Milena Raicevic (ex Knezevic), Majda Mehmedovic, Suzana Lazovic and Marina Rajcic (Vukcevic). Eight players are missing from the team whose performance was a debacle at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (five defeats in five games in the group).

Bojana Popovic, who decided to come back from retirement just for that competition, became Adzic’s assistant in Buducnost and for Montenegro, Radmila Petrovic ended her career, Andjela Bulatovic and Jovanka Radicevic officially retired from the national team, while Adzic decided not to take Katarina Bulatovic, Marija Jovanovic, Sonja Barjaktarovic and Biljana Novovic to Sweden, stressing that no one is ruled out from future competitions.

After four years, right back Jasna Boljevic (ex Toskovic) is back in the team, and at 27 she will be the oldest player in the squad. If selected, there will be some debutants at EHF EURO, such as Ljubica Nenezic, Itana Grbic, Ivona Pavicevic, Dijana Ujkic, Sanja Premovic, Vanesa Agovic, Ivana Bozovic, Bobana Klikovac.

The attack

Missing some “top guns”, such as Katarina Bulatovic and Marija Jovanovic, young Djurdjina Jaukovic on the left side, and Jasna Toskovic, Djurjina Malovic and Andrea Klikovac on right will have to take on more responsibility in attack.

New captain, Milena Raicevic, will rally this new blood in the Montenegro attack. Also, left wing Majda Mehmedovic is an offensive guarantee, but Montenegro will need more attacking power if they want to be a surprise in Sweden -- especially from their younger players.

In the last two friendly games, they lost against Croatia 28:20 and 21:17. This all showing that the young team needs more time to reach better attacking form. But, there’s not much time left.

The defence

Defence was the decisive factor in all of Buducnost’s and Montenegro’s successes in the past years, both led by Dragan Adzic, who tweaked that part of the game almost to perfection. But, with lot of new players, it’s pretty much difficult to predict how the defense will work in Sweden.

Suzana Lazovic, Milena Knezevic, Majda Mehmedovic, Ema Ramusovic, Jelena Despotovic, Djurdjina Jaukovic will lead the defensive block, but also Jasna Boljevic and young Djurdjina Malovic, Bobana Klikovac, Vanesa Agovic, Itana Grbic and other will have to take on more responsibility.

Only with good defense, can Montenegro gain confidence for attack.

Adzic will continue to use his trusty 6-0 formation, but he did, however, announce some modifications for it.

Furthermore, for first time after many years, Marina Rajcic will not be partnered by an older goalkeeper as she will be the oldest between the posts at 23. Her recent good form shown with Metz in EHF Champions League is a good sign for Montenegro.

The coach

Dragan Adzic has been leading Montenegro for six years now, and he’s the most successful coach in history of Montenegrin handball.

Apart the 2012 EHF EURO title, with Montenegro he won Olympic gold in 2012 in London, and two titles with Buducnost in the EHF Champions League.

After disappointing performances at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last summer, he decided to leave the bench of the national team and concentrate on his work in Buducnost.

But, a few months later he changed his mind, and the new management in the national federation gave him a four-year mandate to lead Montenegro up until the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

He has worked before with all the players in the national team, including also the younger age categories, so the players are familiar with his system of work and style of play. He will also have the task to restore a good atmosphere in the national team, which was lost in Rio de Janeiro.

The outlook

Montenegro are one of the youngest, maybe the youngest team who will play in Sweden. Jasna Toskovic is 27, Milena Raicevic and Majda Mehmedovic are both 26, Andra Klikovac and Ivana Bozovic 25, Suzana Lazovic and Sanja Premovic 24, Marina Rajcic 23, Jelena Despotovic 22, Bobana Klikovac 21, and the other 10 players are 20 or younger, including goalkeeper Anastasia Babovic, who, if selected, will turn 16 during 2016 EHF EURO should they make it to the next round.

The goal for this team is to reach the main round and to have at least six strong games which, in Adzic’s mind, is important for future competitions, and especially to expand the base of the national team.

So, a victory, probably against Czech Republic, is the main goal.

The 20 players (to be reduced to 16) nominated by Montenegro for the Women's EHF EURO 2016

Goalkeepers: Marina Rajcic (Metz Handball, France), Ljubica Nenezic (ELIOS Kispest NKK, Hungary), Anastasija Babovic (Buducnost)

Left wings: Majda Mehmedovic (CSM Bucuresti, Romania), Ivona Pavicevic (Buducnost), Itana Grbic (Buducnost).

Left backs: Milena Raicevic (Buducnost), Djurdjina Jaukovic (Buducnost), Ivana Bozovic (MKS Lublin, Poland)

Centre backs: Vanesa Agovic (Buducnost), Jelena Despotovic (DVSC-TVP, Hungary), Tatjana Brnovic (Danilovgrad)

Right backs: Jasna Boljevic (HCM Roman, Romania), Djurdjina Malovic (Buducnost), Andrea Klikovac (Vardar, FYR Macedonia)

Right wings: Dijana Ujkic (Buducnost), Sanja Premovic (Lubin, Poland).

Line players: Suzana Lazovic (Buducnost), Ema Ramusovic (Buducnost), Bobana Klikovac (DVSC-TVP, Hungary)


TEXT: Sasa Joncic / bc / ts
 
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