FEATURE: With the women’s team returning to the event, and the men coming back after narrowly missing out on a medal in 2013, Serbia hope to spring a surprise at the European Beach Handball Championships 2015
Enthusiastic Serbia hope to surprise competitive opponents
Serbian beach handball national teams are set to continue on the path of building popularity of the sport nationwide. With the season-long fury of the hard courts continuing on the Spanish sands from 30 June to 5 July, the handball-loving nation will have the opportunity to compete on both fronts this summer in Lloret de Mar.
The men’s team will face Russia, Hungary Norway, Switzerland and Italy in Group B, while the women’s team will have Hungary, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Poland and Germany as their rivals in tough Group A.
By taking part at the European Beach Handball Championships, the men’s team will make their sixth appearance, while the Serbian women’s national team, who return after a four-year absence, will hope to surpass their biggest success, the bronze medal won in 2002 (as Yugoslavia), as they approach their seventh Beach Handball European Championships.
Continuity the key
The men’s team will be eager to take the crucial step towards the podium finish, having their latest result – a fourth place in 2013 in Randers – set as the perfect building block for future success.
And they will have their own reason to believe in good result – one of them being the fact that Spanish sand suits them very well, as Serbia won the bronze medal at the World Championship 2008 in Cadiz.
"We have been able to develop a certain sense of continuity, despite the tough conditions we are facing. The past year has seen great support from the Serbian Handball Federation, which allowed us to develop this team on various tournaments," said former Serbian beach handball national team member Ivan Drenovac, who was the assistant to Daniel Petkovic with the men’s team before taking over the women’s squad.
Headlined by the likes of Luka Marinovic and the European Beach Handball Championships 2013 MVP Marko Pavlovic, the core of that team that narrowly missed out on bronze in 2013 after a 1-2 semi-final defeat to Denmark in Randers is still present in the current squad.
"Result-wise, we are on a rise. Our men’s team is near the top teams for some time now. However, the competition is very tough, and you must do very well to stay competitive.
"There are many teams at the event able to defeat anyone – Switzerland, Poland to name the few, have made great progress. There are many teams capable of a surprise – hopefully we will be among them," added Drenovac.
Youth and enthusiasm of their side
Marking their return to the event, Serbian women’s national team will look to secure the all-important top four finish in the tightly-contested Group A, facing the four past winners of the competition – Russia, Italy, the success-hungry returnees Germany, as well as title defenders Hungary.
"The group is very competitive, but the most important thing is that we are back to the major competition. The women’s team has gone trough the transitional phase in past years, and we have done our best to rebuild the team.
"These past few week have served to redevelop the core of the team and recruit players that may someday repeat or even surpass that third place," says Ivan Drenovac, Serbian women’s beach handball national team coach.
The current Serbian women’s team is every bit different to the Yugoslavian one that finished third in 2002.
Young and enthusiastic players bound by the sheer love for the sport, now replace the likes of hard-court stars Zlata Paplacko, Maja Savic and Ljiljana Knezevic who were present in the success of 2002.
"Our biggest advantage is the light-hearted approach we have. We simply love playing beach handball, do it for fun, and have the youth and enthusiasm on our side," added Drenovac, one of the pioneers of beach handball in Serbia.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
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