Serbia was the first of the 16 participating in the World Championships in Fukuoka to start competing this summer.
The Serbs started their 40-day trip around the world late in June. Their first stop was Istanbul. The results in Split last year sent them to the qualifications for the 2024 Europeans. Serbia didn’t have demanding tasks at the tournament in Istanbul and won 1st place with convincing victories against Turkey, Slovakia and Great Britain.
From Turkey, Serbia went to the World Cup Final, finishing in 7th place. The next stop was Kashiwazaki in Japan. This Japanese city is the Serbs’ base for the last phase of the preparations for the World Championships in Fukuoka. They train together with Montenegro.
Strahinja Rasovic, the Olympic champion, had just a few days of rest like many others on the Serbian team. Less than three weeks after the last match in the clubs’ season at the Final Eight, he played the first official match with the national team.
“We haven’t had a long rest for long. We are used to such a rhythm. This summer differs a little bit from the previous seasons because we have had more official matches and tournaments. We don’t test our shape in friendly games. Since the start of the preparations, we have been working hard, just as we should. We need that kind of work. We have a great atmosphere in the team. Because of that, I am looking forward to the World Championships in an optimistic mood”, Rasovic told Total Waterpolo.
Disappointment after quarterfinal loss in LA led us to new failure
Serbia did as it should in Istanbul, but it had big ups and downs at the World Cup. It started excellently in the quarterfinals against the USA, but it conceded four, not scoring a single goal, and lost 9:10. A shocking 14:17 defeat to Romania followed that. At the end, Serbia beat Germany in the 7th-place match (15:8).
“In my opinion, Team USA, the host of the tournament, was the most demanding rival to open the Final Eight. However, we were a much better rival until the last quarter. But, we practically lost the already-won game. The disappointment after the loss was carried into our game against Romania, whom we had beaten just a year ago with a score of 17:1. We were defeated due to our poor approach to the match, which did not reflect our true potential.
It is important that we learn from our mistakes and strive to improve. While we had hoped to achieve a good result in Los Angeles, it was essential to remember that the tournament served as preparation for the upcoming World Championships. Like all the other teams, we were not in the best possible shape in Los Angeles.”
I have faith in our team
During our conversation in Kragujevac before Serbia’s departure to Istanbul, Rasovic expressed his confidence in the Serbian team’s ability to battle for a medal and make it to the semifinals.
“I stand by that statement. I wouldn’t do anything in life if I couldn’t hope to achieve victory and be the best. I maintain my faith in our team and our potential. I beleive we can go all the way. While the outcome of sports events cannot be predicted, it is essential to have confidence in oneself.”
Serbia is in a very strong group with world champion Spain, which is the strongest favorite for the title, Montenegro, and only one underdog, South Africa.
The Serbs will open the tournament with a game against Spain. They recorded victories in the previous two matches against the Spaniards – in the semifinals of the Olympic Games and Division 1 of the World Cup in Podgorica (after a penalty shootout). However, those two matches aren’t realistic bases for the predictions. Only five Serbian players who won Olympic gold are on the team now (Rasovic, Mitrovic, Randjelovic, Jaksic and Lazic). As for Spain, the team hasn’t changed significantly since Tokyo, but it should be mentioned that a few aces, including Alvaro Granados, missed the Podgorica tournament.
“I like Serbia opens the tournament with the most difficult game.. The match against a formidable opponent will be a great opportunity for us to see our capabilities. We have two hard and one easier match in the group. We know the rivals. We analyzed Spain. We train with Montenegro. It is not usual for two teams playing in the same group to prepare together before the Championships. However, these preparations were agreed on and planned before the draw. Our approach to each match will be the same – to win the game.”
For more news and the schedule about the upcoming Worlds, visitTotal Waterpolo’s 2023 World Championships page.
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