Croatia defeat reigning EHF EURO champions twice
Three months after winning the title at the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia, Montenegro were back on the court in two friendly games against Croatia in Bar.
Facing many injury problems, Montenegro coach Dragan Adžić was not able to send his strongest team on to the court.
On the contrary, it was the chance to test some young players and see who will be able to step up to join the first team in the future.
Croatia won both games, the first one easily 31:17 (16:8), while the second was 23:19 (15:9) for the visitors.
Due to injuries, Montenegro was missing the likes of Katarina Bulatović, Marija Jovanović, Radmila Miljanić, Majda Mehmedović, Suzana Lazović and Sandra Nikčević in the first game and Ana Đokić was unable to play her farewell match for Montenegro, also through injury.
In the second game Adžić decided to rest Milena Knežević, Anđela Bulatović and Sonja Barjaktarović.
"During the last week work and in two games with Croatia, the goal was to try players who have not been in our focus or those who have been part of the team in previous competitions, but didn’t have enough space to play.
“Now I have a completely clear picture of what they can do at the moment and it will be highlighted to them what they should, as far as possible, do to improve in their clubs,” Montenegro coach Dragan Adžić told eurohandball.com.
"The first game had its significance, but the most important was the second game, to see how much younger girls can do.
“I'm happy that Croatia, in preparation for their 2013 World Championship play-off games against France, came to Bar in full force. So I have a true picture of my young players,” Adžić added.
“But these defeats remind us that without maximum work and maximum effort on the court, regardless of fatigue, we cannot even play against teams weaker than Croatia.
“It was helpful, I'm satisfied because of this. When I will look at the games on the list for the Mediterranean Games, it will be seen who at the moment can or cannot be on the senior team,” concluded Adžić.
Croatia is preparing for two 2013 World Championship play-off games against France and the games with Montenegro were the opportunity to see the current strength of the team who finished 13th at the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia.
The question is how much weakened Montenegro could have been a right test for Croatia?
“First match showed how absence of only one player can disrupt the concept of the game.
“Comparing to the EURO in Serbia, we were stronger with Andrea Penezić, while Montenegro was without a number of players.
“Of course, a win over the European Champions is an honor for us, we were very motivated in the game which was really competitive,” Croatia coach Vladimir Canjuga told eurohandball.com.
The second game was a different case for Canjuga.
”When I saw that Dragan Adžić sent a rejuvenated lineup on the court, I just kept the best players on for the first 20 minutes of the game, without Andrea Penezić, because she is going to play in the Champions League semi-final for Krim.
“Also, it would make no sense to chase a 15 goal difference like in the first game, because it would mislead us, since Montenegro without Katarina Bulatović, Marija Jovanović and Ana Đokić is another story.
“That’s why in the second half of the second game I gave a chance to play to younger players, it was harder and we lost in those 30 minutes.
“But, it was very useful to see what is the potential for the future of the senior team,” Canjuga added.
“Compared to the Olympic Games in London, eight players are not in the team anymore.
“Some of them decided not to play for the national team, for others I have decided they will not be part of the team.
“The engine of the team, Miranda Tatari, is still injured and there is a question whether Nikica Pušić will come back.
“However, the young teams has played and gained some experience at EHF EURO in Serbia.
“In the first game with Montenegro it was obvious when Penezić and Franić were on the court, not to mention especially the wings Zebić and Gaće, that the younger girls were a lot more secure.
“Two matches with the strong France in the 2013 World Championship play-offs are ahead of us and it will be very tough,” concluded Canjuga.
TEXT: Saša Jončić / cor