Fearless Montenegro to face Germany and Czech Republic
Almost five months after Montenegro beat Sweden in the Play-Offs to qualify for the 2013 World Championship, head coach Zoran Kastratović's team goes into the qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 with the desire to show that the success against the 2012 Olympic silver medallists was not a one-off performance.
Compared to the team that beat Sweden, Mladen Rakčević and Žarko Marković are the two most prominent 'newcomers' to the squad that Kastratović selected for the qualifiers against Germany (1 November) and Czech Republic (4 November).
Rakčević, who plays club handball for Metalurg Skopje, has missed the World Championship Play-Off due to a severe knee injury, but after more than seven months of rehabilitation he has successfully returned to the court.
Marković did not play against Sweden because of an eyelid surgery and it is still uncertain whether he will play against Germany and the Czech Republic.
The 26-year-old right back from German side Frisch Auf Göppingen got injured a week ago at a training session, having received a strong blow to the chest.
He has already missed two games for his team, in the Bundesliga against TuS N-Lübbecke and against SC Magdeburg in the German Cup.
It remains to be seen whether Marković will play on Saturday (27 October) in the Bundesliga match against HBW Balingen-Weilstetten.
“Marković certainly will come to Montenegro, and we will see whether he will be able to play. But if he’s going to play for his club on Saturday, I don’t see why he shouldn’t play for the national team”, Montenegro coach Zoran Kastratović said.
Team spirit above individual performance
Centre back Mirko Milašević will skip these two qualifiers, because he, as Kastratović confirmed, signed with a new club, Spanish side Fertiberia Puerto Sagunto, only two weeks ago.
“A small problem is that we have some players who have found new clubs later, and also we have players coming back from injuries, Kastratović said.
„I hope that, as in June (when they beat Sweden), in terms of the competition, the team spirit will be above all individual performances. With maximum involvement of all of us, we will try to get positive results against Germany and Czech Republic in order to have more chances to qualify for the EHF EURO 2014.”
On the list of selected players, there is only one who is currently without a club - left wing Petar Kapisoda whose work and professional attitude on and off the court certainly means lot for the team.
Kastratović said that Kapisoda currently trains with Lovćen, and from January he will play again in Switzerland.
“Because of his experiences, his understanding of sport and human qualities, Kapisoda has a place in this team”, Kastratović said.
Montenegro will gather on 29 October and will train for two days before travelling to Mannheim to play Germany on 1 November. Three days later in the city of Bar, Montenegro will play against Czech Republic.
“It’s certain that those are two high quality opponents. German players play in the best European league, the Bundesliga. They have a high-quality players with vast international experience.“ Kastratović said.
„In the Czech team plays Filip Jicha, one of the best players in the world. We accomplished an exploit in June by beating Sweden in the Play-offs for World Championship in Spain.
„That success brought extra confidence to our team. I think that also our opponents in this qualification will have more respect for us.”
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Montenegro squad for the first two EHF EURO 2014 qualification matches:
Goalkeepers: Rade Mijatović (HC Dinamo Minsk, Belarus), Marko Rajković (Valence handball, France), Nebojša Simić (H43 Lund, Sweden)
Left wings: Igor Marković (Lovćen), Petar Kapisoda (no club)
Right wings: Fahrudin Melić (Gorenje Velenje, Slovenia), Marko Lasica (Frigoríficos Morrazo Cangas, Spain)
Line player: Mladen Rakčević (HC Metalurg, FYR Macedonia), Marko Pejović (OCI Nitrogen-Lions, Netherlands), Nemanja Grbović (Lovćen)
Left backs: Vladimir Osmajić (RK Cimos Koper, Slovenia), Vasko Ševaljević (HC Dinamo Minsk, Belarus), Goran Lasica (Lovćen)
Centre backs: Draško Mrvaljević (Bregenz Handball, Austria), Stevan Vujović (Lovćen)
Right backs: Zoran Roganović (H43 Lund, Sweden), Žarko Marković (Frisch Auf Göppingen, Germany), Marko Simović (Al Ahli, Qatar)
TEXT: Saša Jončić / ts