Ilić and Čutura out of Serbia’s EHF EURO 2014 qualifying squad
The long road to the EHF EURO 2014 finals in Denmark begins with the first two rounds of qualifiers on October 30 and November 4, when European vice-champions Serbia throw off their campaign with a home game against Russia followed by a visit to neighbours Bonsia-Herzegovina.
Captain Momir Ilić, who spearheaded Serbia’s run to the silver medal on home soil at the EHF EURO 2012 in January, has been temporarily left out of the 28-man squad but the fate of ageing playmaker Dalibor Čutura and Dobrivoje Marković seems far less certain.
Coach Veselin Vuković included some new players in his squad, having dropped Ilić to rest the versatile left back who was Serbia’s top scorer in the last European Championship.
„I spoke to Ilić and decided to let him skip the first two games so that he can let his injury heal and resolve some family matters,“ Vuković told Belgrade media.
„Leaving out Čutura and Marković was entirely my decision though, because we have entered a fresh four-year Olympic cycle and we need to look into the future a little bit,“ he added.
The coach called up more local players from the Serbian first division and pointed out that he needed to inject fresh blood in order to make the national team squad more competitive.
„The players need to know that they will be competing with each other for a berth in the 19-man squad, no one should be able to stroll through the final cut. Many of these home-based players were already with us on tour in Germany and some of them will get a chance against the Russians and the Bosnians,“ said Vuković.
A good start could be crucial for Serbia’s bid to reach the 2014 tournament in Denmark, with only two teams from each group and the best third-placed team going through to the finals.
Apart from Russia and Bosnia, the Serbians will also be up against Austria, who beat them 37:31 in the Preliminary Round of the EHF EURO 2010 on home soil and thus staged one of the upsets of the tournament.
Hence Vuković will take nothing for granted and has therefore named a strong squad despite leaving out Ilić, who is bound to return in the latter stages of qualifying to once again lead Serbia with his shooting prowess and passing vision.
„We are looking at two very difficult games, as Russia’s new-look team is exceptionally good while Bosnia will certainly be motivated to play their best game against us. Two wins would put us on the right track to Denmark, while a pair of defeats would put us in trouble, so we’ll have to be at our best to make the start we want,“ Serbia’s coach said.
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The Serbian squad for the two qualification matches has been announced as follows:
Goalkeepers: Darko Stanić (Metalurg Skopje), Dragan Marjanac (Berne), Strahinja Milić (Vardar Skopje), Mihailo Radovanović (Partizan Belgrade)
Wingers: Ivan Nikčević (Wisla Plock), Nemanja Ilić (Partizan Belgrade), Filip Marjanović (Metaloplastika Šabac), Rajko Prodanović (Pick Szeged), Darko Đukić (Železničar Niš), Mitar Markez (Goeppingen).
Line player: Alem Toskić (Celje), Rastko Stojković (Viva Kielce), Bojan Beljanski (Goeppingen), Mijailo Marsenić (Partizan Belgrade).
Backs: Žarko Šešum (Rhein-Neckar Loewen), Nikola Manojlović (Koper), Momir Rnić (Goeppingen), Miloš Dragaš (Metaloplastika Šabac), Draško Nenadić (Granollers), Petar Nenadić (Wisla Plock), Nenad Vučković (Melsungen), Uroš Mitrović (Partizan Belgrade), Marko Krsmančić (Alpla Hard Innsbruck), Luka Mitrović (Aalborg), Marko Vujin (THW Kiel), Ivan Stanković (Creteille), Nemanja Zelenović (Celje), Ljubomir Jošić (Vojvodina Novi Sad).
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / ts