25 January 2017
Not many people would have picked Slovenia to make it to the final four of the 25th IHF Men’s Handball World Championship, but Veselin Vujovic and his young squad have impressed along the way, and put away Qatar in the quarter-final to set up a “dream” semi-final for him and his young side.
How do you feel before this semi-final against France?
Vujovic: “Two or three years ago, my young players wanted to have the autographs from Daniel Narcisse and Nikola Karabatic, and tomorrow, we are going to play against these perfect players. But we will try to enjoy this game, because it’s a dream for me as a coach and for my players. Playing in Paris, in front of 15,000 people, against France, maybe the best team in the last ten or fifteen years in handball – it’s the best you can expect. So we will try to enjoy this game, to show some good handball, and if we manage to play relaxed, we could win this game.”
Some of your players are playing in Montpellier, or played in Montpellier. Would you say that it can be an asset for you?
Vujovic: “I don’t know, we will see after the game (laughs). I think so, of course, it can be an advantage for us. They know French handball and it’s very important for me. We are now in the good position. We are among the four best teams in the world, but I don’t like the last position. I will try everything to win at least one game of the two remaining, because if we win one game, we have a medal.”
What is your opinion on the French team?
Vujovic: “The French team has the best goalkeeper, the best left back, the best pivot, the best right wing. It’s a very good team. I think we have a chance if we play strong and hard in defence, and we play fast in attack. But most important, we will have to be good in the transition from attack to defence, because France are really good in such situations, it is a strong point for them.”
What do you see in the future for this young Slovenian team?
Vujovic: “Our future stars are starting grow. I think that Slovenia will do important things in the big competitions in the coming years.”
Some observers say that Slovenia play the best handball of the tournament. Does that please you?
Vujovic: “We play good handball; I have technical players, who play creative handball, not strong or hard handball. But today, our sport is changing, so you have to play hard too, especially in defence, if you want to win big tournaments. So I need tall players too. Of course, I like players like Zarabec or Bezjak, they are amazing players, but we need players like Blagotinsek and Gaber, because we have to fight against very strong and big players.”
Photo: Julien Crosnier/France Handball 2017