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01.01.2018, 16:57
Montenegro dream of first win and dark horse status
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EHF EURO TEAM COUNTDOWN #8: After three EHF EURO participations Montenegro are still winless. Their biggest aim is to change this – but one their greatest stars is in doubt for the final tournament
 

Montenegro dream of first win and dark horse status

The Men's EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia will be Montenegro's fourth overall and third consecutive final tournament participation.

However, they still wait for their first win at this stage, having drawn once and lost 11 matches to date. In 2008, at their debut, they drew with Russia and this one point was enough to reach the main round; ever since it was always all over after the preliminary round.

With a more more experienced team than two years ago at Poland 2016, head coach Dragan Djukic will not only try and achieve the first victory and steer his team to the main round, but he also aims at being one of the tournament’s dark horses.

In the lead-up to the EHF EURO, Montenegro will gather on 2 January in Podgorica. The day after they will travel to Split where they meet Croatia for a friendly match on 5 January.

The team has been drawn to Group C and their first match is on 13 January against defending champs Germany, before they face FYR Macedonia on 15 January and Slovenia on 17 January.

Roster

Djukic has named 20 players for the preparation period, a mix of experienced players and young guns. Compared to the qualification there is just one new name: Stevan Vujovic.

The most experienced is captain and goalkeeper Rade Mijatovic, the only player who was part of the team at all three previous EURO participations. But the second pillar of the Montenegro game, left back Vuko Borozan, is in serious doubt.

The Vardar player got injured just before Christmas in a car accident, and at this point he rules himself out of the EHF EURO to 99 per cent. Djukic said he will wait for Borozan until the very last moment, stressing that he might use the left back as a substitute during the competition, if Borozan is fully fit.

Attack

The likely absence of Borozan poses a huge challenge for the Montenegro attack which relies heavily on Borozan's prowess. The left back scored 50 goals in qualification, almost one third of all Montenegro goals (158) in the group.

If Borozan does not play, the shooting responsibility will likely be distributed to other left and central back court players, especially to Vasko Sevaljevic (22 goals in qualification), but also young Milos Bozovic, who scored six goals in the decisive qualification match against Russia (27:27) to prove his great potential.

Left wing Milos Vujovic (18 goals in qualification) is the first and secure choice in his position, as well as line player Nemanja Grbovic (19) who should recover from injury in time.

The talented right back duo, Vladan Lipovina (12) and Stefan Cavor (15), mostly share the time on the right side of the attack.

The biggest problem in attack in the qualification matches was the efficiency of the right wings who scored in total only nine goals.

Defence

The traditional 3-2-1 formation is still the backbone of the Montenegro team – just as it has been for a decade, like, traditionally, for most former Yugoslavia teams.

Even though Montenegro had the worst defence in their qualification group (28 goals conceded on average), the two most important results came off the top of great defending: the 28:24 win against Sweden and the 27:27 draw against Russia.

Good news for Montenegro and their defence is the comeback of young and very talented goalkeeper Nebojsa Simic, who’s playing well in his first season in Germany where he plies his trade for MT Melsungen in the Bundesliga.

Coach

Dragan Djukic took over in November 2016 in a difficult moment for the men’s team. Montenegro had lost to Sweden and drawn with Russia in the first two 2018 qualifiers and some players (Vuko Borozan, Vladan Lipovina, Nebojsa Simic) were unsure whether to continue their national team career.

Djukic solved the situation and brought back the necessary harmony and chemistry to the team – and he achieved the results that led Montenegro to EHF EURO.

As former coach of Jordan, FYR Macedonia, Switzerland, Great Britain (whom he coached at the London 2012 Olympics) and Israel, Djukic has a lot of experience when it comes to coaching national teams, although Croatia 2018 will be his first experience at an EHF EURO.

Outlook

In group C Montenegro face defending champions Germany, Slovenia and FYR Macedonia. They have recorded victories against the so-called big teams, such as Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic and Iceland. But all those wins came in single games, with enough time to prepare for them physically and psychologically.

On tournament level the story is different. Counting the past three EHF EURO events they played, as well the World Championship 2013 in Spain, Montenegro won just one out of 19 games.

Hence the team’s first goal is to record at least one victory which would probably secure them a place in the main round – and that would already be considered a huge success.

It is likely that the game against FYR Macedonia on 15 January is the greatest chance to do.

The 20 Montenegro players selected for the Men’s EHF EURO 2018:

Goalkeepers: Rade Mijatovic (HC Meskhov Brest, Belarus), Nebojsa Simic (MT Melsungen, Germanz), Mile Mijuskovic (BM Benidorm, Spain)

Left wings: Milos Vujovic (Grundfos Tatabanya, Hungary), Igor Markovic (Komlo, Hungary)

Left backs: Vuko Borozan (Vardar, FYR Macedonia), Vasko Sevaljevic (Tremblay, France), Miloš Bozovic (Grundfos Tatabanya, Hungary)

Centre backs: Stevan Vujovic (AHC Dobrogea Sud, Romania), Zarko Pejovic (Gorenje Velenje, Slovenia), Bozo Andjelic (Metalurg, FYR Macedonia)

Right backs: Stefan Cavor (HSG Vetzlar, Germany), Vladan Lipovina (TV 05/07 Huttenberg, Germany), Ivan Perisic (Cegledi KKSE, Hungary)

Line players: Nemanja Grbovic (Cegledi KKSE, Hungary), Vuk Lazovic (AHC Dunarea Calarasi, Romania), Nebojsa Simovic (Dabas KC VCE, Hungary)


TEXT: Sasa Joncic / ts
 
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