Montenegro to face Croatia, but already with thoughts in Aarhus
For the March 10 (Thursday) and 12 (Saturday) back-to-back Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase 2, Group 4 matches against Croatia, Montenegro coach Dragan Adzic will not be able to count on captain Marija Jovanovic.
The Issy Paris Hand left back tore her anterior cruciate ligament on her left knee in a recent French league game, undergoing surgery on Monday (22 February) and her season is now over, which means she also will miss the Rio 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament in Aarhus, Denmark from 18 to 20 March where her side will face the hosts, Romania and Uruguay.
“I'm so sorry for Marija, because at the World Championship in Denmark, she played her best-ever tournament,” said Adzic, who is also coach of Montenegrin club side Buducnost, where the majority of his national players come from.
“I know what enormous energy she had in her preparations for the Olympic qualification tournament and we will miss her creativity in attack.
“It's a very awkward situation, but we have to fight with it.”
However, there is good news for Montenegro - centre back Andjela Bulatovic is back on the court after a four-month break due to shoulder surgery, and played 40 minutes for Hungarian side ÉRD HC in their EHF Women's Cup Winners' Cup Quarter Final First Leg victory this week against Issy Paris Hand.
“Angela's return is of incredible importance for us,” said Adzic.
Montenegrin right wing Radmila Petrovic has also made Adzic’s squad, even though she has not played since November 2015, which included missing the World Championship, due to glandular fever (mononucleosis).
Line player Suzana Lazovic also makes the team, although, like Petrovic, it is still uncertain on her fitness - she is recovering from knee surgery whilst Petrovic must rest until the end of February following her illness.
“From 2 March she can prepare at least for the Olympic qualification tournament,” said Adzic about Petrovic. “But I believe that she will play, while Lazovic is more uncertain.”
Left back Ivana Bozovic, who plays her club handball in Romania with CSM Ploiesti, returned to the 18-name squad after a lengthy absence but got injured during the first training and the back court player will be hoping it is nothing serious.
Amongst those names in the squad there is one real surprise. The third line player position was given to Bobana Klikovac.
Klikovac has been making some impressive performances for Debreceni VSC in Hungary and has got the call ahead of Sara Vukcevic, who also plays her club handball in Hungary, in Vaci.
The Montenegro squad will start their preparation next week, on Wednesday 2 March. The Croatian double-header is scheduled for Thursday 10 March in Split, Croatia and Saturday 12 March in Bar, Montenegro.
After two rounds in the qualification phase so far, both teams have a maximum of four points following two wins each in the group with Slovenia and FYR Macedonia, and both are strong favourites to finish in the top two spots to qualify for the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden in December.
“Because of the problems with our injured players the matches with Croatia are not coming at good time for us,” said Adzic. “Croatia are a very serious opponent and we will use those games as preparation for the Olympic qualification and to trial several players.
“I believe we will qualify for Rio 2016; we will have the maximum focus in Denmark to achieve what we want and I hope we will have a calm that we missed at World Championship.
“Certainly, at the moment we are not ready for a big competition,” continued Adzic. “But we are ready for two games and, fortunately, the qualification for Rio 2016 is not long, but for us they have huge importance.”
Montenegro squad for Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase matches against Croatia and Rio 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament
Goalkeepers: Sonja Barjaktarovic (Kastamonu Belediyesi Spor KLB, TUR), Marina Rajcic (Metz, FRA), Alma Grizovic (Larvik HK, NOR)
Wings: Majda Mehmedovic (Buducnost, MNE), Biljana Pavicevic (Buducnost, MNE), Radmila Petrovic (Buducnost, MNE), Jovanka Radicevic (Vardar, MKD), Itana Grbic (Vardar, MKD)
Line Players: Suzana Lazovic (Buducnost, MNE), Ema Ramusovic (Buducnost, MNE), Bobana Klikovac (Debreceni VSC, HUN)
Back Court: Milena Raicevic (Buducnost, MNE), Katarina Bulatovic (Buducnost, MNE), Djurdjina Jaukovic (Buducnost, MNE), Andrea Klikovac (Vardar, MKD), Andjela Bulatovic (Erd HC, HUN), Jelena Despotovic (Debreceni VSC, HUN)
Reserves: Ljubica Nenezic (Buducnost, MNE), Ivona Pavicevic (Buducnost, MNE), Itana Cavlovic (Buducnost, MNE), Vanesa Agovic (Buducnost, MNE)
TEXT: Saša Jončić/amc