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02.09.2018, 09:00
A new coach and the chance for youngsters to shine at Metalurg
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: HC Metalurg (MKD). The Macedonian runners-up aim to proceed from the group phase with a rejuvenated roster, promising young talents and a new coach
 

A new coach and the chance for youngsters to shine at Metalurg

After eight years, the era of Lino Cervar at Metalurg has ended. Over the years with the club, the Croatian master coach has built a pool of talents for the Macedonian national team. However, last season, due to Cervar’s absence, Metalurg were mostly led by Aleksandar Jovic. For 2017/18, Cervar’s past assistant, Danilo Brestovac, has taken the helm for the Macedonian runners-up.

In their best years, Metalurg made it to the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League twice, in 2013 and 2014. But in the last four seasons, the team from ‘Avtokomanda’ did not manage to proceed from the group phase.  

This season, with a roster of youngsters, Metalurg are looking forward to gaining experience in their VELUX EHF Champions League voyage.

Three questions before the season:

- Can the new coach deal with the roster changes?

The loss of the three key players: Vanja Ilic, Zharko Peshevski and Aleksandar Gugleta, made Metalurg active on the transfer market and resulted in the introduction of several international and domestic reinforcements.  

Coach Brestovac has already tested his new team, as they participated in the international handball tournament ‘Struga 2018’ as well as the Macedonian Super Cup. In the Super Cup, Metalurg’s young squad did not have the strength to stop Vardar and were defeated 24:33.

“Our roster is still open and I would be happy if we can keep these players until the end of the season. The chances for the first team are open to everyone and I believe that we have the best available players in the Macedonian market at the moment,” says Brestovac.

- Can Metalurg make it out of Group C?

The Macedonian runners-up have one of the youngest squads in the Champions League, as the club serves as a base for introducing new players into the national team and also gives players from their younger categories the chance to advance to the first team.

This season, the ‘Avtokomanda’ team is in a tough Group C with more experienced opponents, which means earning a place in the Last 16 will be a difficult task.

- Will Kuzmanovski be able to lead the team?

Filip Kuzmanovski has worn the Metalurg jersey since 2015. During this period, the 22-year-old gradually turned into one of the key players in the team. Thanks to his explosive variation of shots from long distance, the left back became captain and will lead his teammates through the season once more.

Under the spotlight: Halil Jaganjac

Halil Jaganjac arrived at Metalurg last season, joining his second international club. His transfer turned out to be a huge success as shortly upon his arrival, Jaganjac became the top shooter for the Skopje-based team, with 51 goals in the Champions League and 100 in the SEHA League.

With his superb performance, the 20-year-old played a major role in all matches, so it is no surprise that this season all eyes will be focused on the Croatian back-court player.

Self-esteem

In the last few seasons, the Macedonian championship has been dominated by Vardar. Metalurg are aware of the quality of their opponents however, they are ready to fight to make it as far as possible in all competitions – the national championship and Cup, as well as the VELUX EHF Champions League and SEHA league.

“I'm not David Copperfield, to come with a magic wand and make wonders happen. I can promise that in the next period Metalurg will remain a leader in the region when it comes to working with young categories. I know it will be difficult to go one level above, but my ambition will be to do it,” says Brestovac.

Fun fact

The third round of the VELUX EHF Champions League will be unusual for the Macedonian runners-up, as Metalurg will host TATRAN Presov in Vardar’s Jane Sandanski arena, due to the occupation of their arena, Boris Trajkovski.

What the numbers say

Metalurg have been a regular contender in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase each year since 2011. However, their last domestic league title dates back as far as 2014, so they want to end a five-year draught in the 2018/19 season.

HC Metalurg (MKD)

Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Macedonian runners-up, upgrade from EHF Cup

Newcomers: Adrian Milicevic (HC Porec), Luka Stojanovic (HC Plzen), Bojan Madzovski (HC Pelister), Predrag Mijatovic (HC Partizan)

Left the club: Vanja Ilic (La Rioja Logrono), Aleksandar Gugleta, Davor Palevski, Zarko Peshevski (Motor Zaporozhye), Borjan Madjovski (Pelister)

Coach: Danilo Brestovac (since August 2018)

Team captain: Filip Kuzmanovski

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 11
Quarter-final (2): 2012/13, 2013/14
Last 16 (1): 2011/2012
Group Phase (6): 2006/07, 2008/09, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Qualification (1): 2010/11

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Quarter-final (1): 2007/08
Last 16 (1): 2010/11

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final (1): 2008/09

Macedonian league: six titles (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
Macedonian cup: five titles (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013)


TEXT: Amina Idrizi / cg
 
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