The Serbian women’s national team are on course to qualify for December’s EHF EURO 2012 in the Netherlands but in order to achieve their objective, they might require at least one win from their remaining two games away to underdogs Greece on May 30 and at home to Portugal in Novi Sad’s SPENS Arena on June 2.
Serbia are joint leaders in Qualifying Group 2 alongside Romania with three wins and one defeat from four matches, meaning that the upcoming Rounds 5 and 6 will determine which two teams from the group will advance to the showpiece event later this year.
Gearing up for the two decisive battles, Serbia played a friendly against the tournament’s hosts this week and lost 34:29 to an inspired Dutch side, who had 13 players on the scoresheet led by Cornelia Groot who netted seven goals.
Despite the defeat, Serbia coach Sasha Boskovic was pleased with his team’s effort, especially in view of the fact that first-choice pivot Dragana Cvijic will be out of action in the long term after a knee surgery.
“We lost but we played a good match and I can’t complain although we made many mistakes,” Boskovic told Belgrade media after the game. “We were exhausted and had only one training session at full strength prior to the match. The team will learn from every defeat they suffer and this match was useful to see where we stand,” he added.
Cvijic, who had to undergo surgery after clinching the EHF Women's Champions League with Buducnost Podgorica, turned up on crutches at Thursday’s press conference in Belgrade to support her team mates.
“On one hand I am sad to be sidelined with the knee surgery but I am here for my comrades and I really hope that we will be able to advance past the group stage in the EHF European Championship because qualifying for the finals should now be a formality,” she told reporters.
Sanja Damjanovic, who stood out with five goals for Serbia in the defeat to Netherlands, was also confident the rest of the qualifying campaign would be plain sailing for her team.
“We are better than both Greece and Portugal so these two games should be a good opportunity to try some tactical set plays, although we must fire on all cylinders at the same time in order to beat our rivals,” she said.
The Serbian team will carry out the final stage of their preparations for the last two qualifiers in the popular local spa Vrnjacka Banja, with Boskovic electing 19 players in his squad.