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Gwangju 2019 preview (part I): Dejan Savic prepares a team for 2024 Olympic Games

Our World Championships Warm Up Series is near the end. Until the start of the water polo tournament, we will introduce the teams which will take part in the competition.

We start with a strong Group A of the men’s tournament, which will offer encounters between three strong European teams Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. Host South Korea will also play in this group.

GROUP A

Serbia

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: bronze.
2018 World League: eliminated in the Preliminary round
2018 World Cup: bronze.
2019 World League: gold.
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships: gold, 2018 Europa Cup: 4th place; 2019 Europa Cup: 6th place).

Serbia, the reigning Olympic and European Champion and freshly crowned World League winner, comes to Gwangju with a young squad.

Two weeks ago, Serbia head coach Dejan Savic surprised everybody when he announced that seven Serbian superstars would miss the World Championships. Serbia will play without Filip Filipovic, Andrija Prlainovic, Dusko Pijetlovic, Milan Aleksic, Stefan Mitrovic, and experienced goalkeepers Gojko Pijetlovic and Branislav Mitrovic.

The main goal for the Serbian national team in 2019 was the gold medal in the World League. The Serbs took the gold at the Super Final, which took place in Belgrade, and qualified for the Olympic Games. After the successful hunt for the Olympic ticket, Savic wants to rest the most experienced players.

Despite the fact that seven stars will miss the WCH, the Serbs are coming with a solid team. There are four Olympic champions in the roster: Milos Cuk (captain), Pro Recco’s left-handed goal-getter Dusan Mandic, Nikola Jaksic, and Sava Randjelovic. Only one player (Nikola Dedovic) will make its debut at a big competition.

These 13 players are able to enter the battle for the medals, but their peak should be the 2024 Olympic Games.

Photo:waterpoloserbia.org

Before coming to Gwangju, Serbia has trained in Kashiwazaki (Japan) for a few days, together with the national team of Japan.

Roster
Goalkeepers: Dimitrije Risticevic (Novi Beograd 11.april), Lazar Dobozanov (Radnicki). Field players: Dusan Mandic (Pro Recco), Viktor Rasovic (Szolnok), Sava Randjelovic (OSC), Milos Cuk (Mladost), Djordje Lazic (Szolnok), Nemanja Vico (Trieste), Radomir Drasovic (Szolnok), Nikola Jaksic (Ferencvaros), Strahinja Rasovic (Eger), Nikola Dedovic (Spandau 04), Ognjen Stojanovic (Miskolc). Head coach: Dejan Savic.

Montenegro

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 5th place.
2018 World League: gold
2018 World Cup: did not qualify
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage.
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships: 6th place, 2018 Europa Cup: 5th place; 2019 Europa Cup: 5th place)

The Montenegrins have been in the circle of favorites at the major competitions since their first appearance in the international stage (in 2007), but they haven’t won a lot of medals at the two biggest tournaments (Olympic Games and World Championships). They were defeated three times in the matches for the bronze medal at the Olympic Games (2008, 2012, 2016), while they won one silver medal at the World Championships (Barcelona, 2013).

Last year, they won the gold medal in the World League, but since that competition, they haven’t reached the semifinals at the major competitions.

Montenegro has an experienced team, with a few talented young players. The leaders are Aleksandar Ivovic, Pro Recco’s captain, Mladjan Janovic (Brescia)… A legendary goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic retired from the national team this summer, but his replacements Dejan Lazovic and Slaven Kandic are also very good players.

The Montenegrins said that they would target the Olympic ticket. This isn’t an unattainable goal. Two best teams will qualify for the Olympics. If Serbia reaches the final game, a bronze medal winner will also take the ticket for Tokyo.

Photo: wpolo.me

Montenegro took the 2nd place at the preparation tournament, which was held in the Chinese city Wenjiang (July 7th – 10th). In the Group Stage, the Montenegrins defeated Canada (14:8), USA (14:13), and China (17:5), while they lost to the Team USA (4:8) in the final.

Roster
Goalkeeper: Dejan Lazovic, Slaven Kandic. Field players: Drasko Brguljan, Dragan Draskovic, Djuro Radovic, Uros Cuckovic, Bogdan Djurdjić, Mladjan Janovic, Aleksandar Ivovic, Marko Petkovic, Vladan Spaic, Nikola Murisic, Aleksa Ukropina. Head coach: Vladimir Gojkovic.

Greece

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 4th place
2018 World League: did not participate.
2018 World Cup: did not qualify
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage
(European competitions: 2018 European Championships: 7th place, 2018 Europa Cup: 7th place; 2019 Europa Cup: 7th place)

It won’t be a surprise if Greece takes the first place in this group. The Greeks have never missed the quarterfinals at the World Championships since 1994. They played in the semifinals in the previous two editions (bronze in Kazan 2015 and 4th place in Budapest 2017).

The Greeks’ big advantage is that they have been preparing for the summer competitions during the whole season. More than half members of the national team play for Olympiacos, 2018 European Champion and runner-up in the 2019 Champions League. The head coach of the national team Vlachos is also Olympiacos’s coach.

The main players are Ioannis Fountoulis, who moved from Olympiacos to Ferencvaros last month, Konstantinos Genidounias, Konstantinos Mourikis…

Photo:Facebook.com/KOE News

Ioannis Fountoulis thinks that the extra-man attacks might be crucial in encounters between the best teams:

Ioannis Fountoulis: “I believe that man-up execution will be vital”

Roster
Goalkeepers: Emanouil Zerdevas (Olympiacos), Konstantinos Galanidis (Apollon). Field players: Konstantinos Genidounias, Dimitris Skoumpakis, Georgios Dervisis, Stylianos Argyropoulos, Konstantinos Mourikis, Alexandros Gounas (all Olympiacos) Ioannis Fountoulis (Ferencvaros), Alexandros Papanastasiou (Jug), Christodoulos Kolomvos (Enka), Angelos Vlachopoulos (Eger), Marios Kapotsis (Steaua). Head coach: Theodoros Vlachos.

South Korea

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
South Korea didn’t participate in the major World competitions in the past two years.

The hosts will play at the FINA’s competition for the first time in history. The matches against three powerhouses from the Balkan Peninsula will be the opportunity for the Koreans to learn from the great teams.

Roster
Goalkeepers: Jinwoo Lee, Byeongyoung Jung. Field players: Donghyeok Kim, Byeongju Kim, Seonuk Lee, Daeyong Gwon, Seonggyu Lee, Yeonggyun Gwon, Moonsoo Kim, Mingjong Chu, Hyomin Han, Kangwon Seo, Jaehoon Song. Head coach: Go Kimura.

Interesting facts

-The national team of Serbia won two World titles (2009 and 2015), silver (2011) and bronze (2017). Montenegro has one silver (2013), Greece won two bronze medals (2005 and 2015).

-Serbia defeated Greece 11:8 in the bronze medal game at the 2017 World Championships.

-The men’s tournament will be opened by a big derby, Serbia-Montenegro on July 15 at 8:30 AM (01:30 CET)

-Dejan Savic (Serbia head coach), his assistant Vladimir Vujasinovic and Montenegro’s head coach Vladimir Gojkovic were team-mates in the national team of Serbia and Montenegro from 2003 until 2006. The three won gold at the 2005 World Championships and silver at the 2004 Olympic Games.

-Serbia beat Greece in the semifinals for places 5 – 8 at the Europa Cup in Zagreb this year (14:10). A day later, Montenegro was better than Serbia in the match for the 6th place (16:14).

-National water polo teams of former countries Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro won 3 gold (1986, 1991, 2005), silver (2001) and 4 bronze medals (1973, 1978,1998, 2003).

For more information about the Water Polo World Championship in Gwangju 2019 visit our tournament page or follow our social media channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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