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24.09.2017, 12:10
Montenegrin youngsters diving into the deep end
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: Buducnost are set for a tricky season in Europe’e elite club competition as a generational change takes place
 

Montenegrin youngsters diving into the deep end

With almost all of Buducnost’s golden generation gone and replaced by talented young guns, the ambitions of the 2012 and 2015 champions have been toned down. However, there are players in Dragan Adzic’s squad capable of making an immediate impression.

Three questions before the new season

What can Buducnost realistically achieve?

Although the squad overhaul began a couple of years ago, the effects will be definitely be felt this season after three top stars left over the summer: World Handball Player of 2016 Cristina Neagu (Bucharest), Katarina Bulatovic (Rostov) and Dragana Cvijic (Vardar) – and the weakening of Podgorica strengthened their biggest rivals.

It is the job of coach Dragan Adzic to create a completely new team with Montenegro’s next generation, building towards national team success at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“We will give our young players the opportunity to gain experience and to present themselves on the European stage. 

“Given that, this is a very promising players, we hope that they will build the opportunity to play as many matches in the Champions League”, says manager Marijana Bulatovic.

What chances do Buducnost have this season?

“Buducnost come from one of the smallest country in Europe, but in this competition we have left our mark as one of the biggest countries in Europe.

“Therefore, the EHF Champions League is very important for our club, our nation and our supporters,” Bulatovic says. Being drawn in a group with Metz, Bieitigheim and Kristiansand, the inexperienced side are not in a hopeless situation.

Who will take the responsibility to lead the team?

Team captain Milena Raicevic, one of the last survivors of the squad which reached its peak in 2012, is the new leader of the squad.

Goalkeepers Darly Zoqbi De Paulawill and Marta Batinovic will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility, while Djurdjina Jaukovic proved last season she is among the most capable of the new generation.

Under the spotlight: Cristina Laslo

Will she be the new Neagu? This is the question asked about Laslo in Romanian and Montenegrin handball circles.

After her role model became a star in Podgorica, the young playmaker has all the skills to follow in her footsteps. Laslo shone in younger age category events for Romania and the 21-year-old is now eager to take the step after making her debut in the senior national team.

Self-esteem

Raicevic admits: “this season will be very difficult for us, bearing in mind we totally rejuvenated our team. At this moment, our goal is to progress to the main round.

“We will face strong opponents in our group, even and if it does not look like that on paper. Metz were a serious candidate for the FINAL4 last season.

“Bietigheim are a main candidate for the main round and also Vipers are a very serious team with some of the best players from the Norwegian national team.”

Bulatovic adds: “we believe in our young generation and I hope that they will give their heart for our club on the court.”

Fun fact

Buducnost’s most successful Women’s EHF Champions League participant is not a current player, but the sports director, Bojana Popovic, who won this competition six times, three with Slagelse, twice with Viborg (both Danish clubs) and once in 2012 with Buducnost.

2012 saw Dragan Adzic become the first coach to win the EHF Champions League and EHF EURO (with Montenegro) in the same year, adding an Olympic silver medal for good measure.

What the numbers say

Buducnost have reached the semi-finals of the competition 11 times since 1998, more than any other current participating club. Like Vardar, the Montenegrin record champions have been present at all Women’s EHF FINAL4 events in Budapest to date.

Buducnost (MNE)

Qualification for the 2017/18 Women’s EHF Champions League season: Montenegrin champions

Newcomers: Cristina Laslo (U Cluj Napoca), Tatjana Brnović, Branka Konatar, Milica Čarapić, Enisa Djoković (all Buducnost junior team)

Left the club: Dragana Cvijic (Vardar), Cristina Neagu (CSM Bucaresti), Katarina Bulatovic (Rostov) , Neli Irman (Spono Eagles), Vanesa Agovic (Vasas HUN), Kinga Achruk (MKS Lublin)

Coach: Dragan Adzic (since 2010)

Team captain: Milena Raicevic

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 22
Winners: 2011/12, 2014/15
Semi-finalists: 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2010/11, 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17
Main Round: 2012/13
Quarter-finalists: 2002/03, 2003/04
Last 16: 1995/96
Group Phase/Champions League: 1996/97, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10

Other EC records:

Cup Winners Cup
Winners: 2005/06, 2009/10

Montenegrin league: 29 titles (1985, 1989, 1990, 1992-2017)
Montenegrin Cup: 22 titles (1984, 1989, 1995-1998, 2000-2002, 2005-2017


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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