Lekic tips Serbia to bounce back

FEATURE: Serbia find its main round berth in grave danger but the team captain has the answer to the question everyone has been asking: Can they rise again and continue fighting?

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

Serbian have experienced one of the worst starts to their Women's EHF EURO campaign, losing their first two matches to Montenegro (19:22) as well as to France (16:27).

The match against bitter rivals Montenegro saw great motivation from the injury-depleted squad to take revenge for their defeat in the semi-final of the Women's EHF EURO 2012, but it has only deepened their injury woes in the end of what was an exhausting, nervy battle.

The encounter against France, unfortunately saw the beginning of the end for Serbian already at half-time (3:11), as no team has ever before scored fewer goals in the first 30 minutes of a Women's EHF EURO event.

The loss against France came at the worst possible time as it significantly damaged the national team's chances of securing the main round ticket, while it opened the question of whether they can find a way to pick themselves up from this before the game against Slovakia.

"We have experienced some really good results in the past two years, and it was only normal for us to have a bit of a fall in performance - although I never thought it would be like this against France.

"It felt like a very bad dream for a moment," said Serbian captain Andrea Lekic, who is one of seven players in the Serbian national team to start the competition while still recovering from injury.

"It's the injuries that make us seem weaker than we really are. Four of us started the championship training only lightly, while we have been unlucky to pick up a few more setbacks in the process," says Lekic to

"We have a limited rotation due to injuries, and everyone need to cover more positions than usual, but it's something we need to accept as our reality, and move forward - it's not anything we haven't had before," added Lekic.

"We need to get this (defeat against France) out of our system as soon as possible, and prove a point," says Lekic.

Their performance at the Women's EHF EURO 2012 and the World Championship 2013 have put Serbia in the limelight of women's handball, but at the same time it made all their potential rivals put a lot more emphasis on finding a way to answer Serbia's game plan.

"Everyone wants to win against us now, we should be aware of that. When they look at us, they see the EHF EURO semi-finalists, and the runners-up of the World Championship. We became a very important part of everyone's plans now," said Lekic.

"France were aware what they need to do against us from the start, and made sure they did it throughout. It didn't help us that the balls bounced straight back to their hands after saves from our goalkeeper several times.

"Having played matches like these (against France and Montenegro) only underlines the reasons why the need to add some freshness to our game.

"We need some unpredictability in the way we play - just like when we saw some highlights in our game against France, as Sanja Rajovic played well against their deep defence, and Jovana Stoiljkovic was doing a great job as well," said Lekic.

"Saying that, I don't think our defending was abysmal. I feel we did a good, solid work not conceding any easy goals defensively, but nor did we score any easy goals."

The motivation to overcome the toughest times has been a virtue of this Serbian team, with mental strength as the driving force behind their results in the past, but France result left them in a state of shock, opening a question of how they will find the strength and motivation to rise again for the game against Slovakia.

"I'm not thinking of anything else rather than the match against Slovakia right now.

Their good performances against France and Montenegro made us analyse their game plan, to find the right approach.

We need to bring back the attacking awareness we have displayed against Montenegro, and I feel that we can do it. None of us wants to go home just yet.

"We've been trough the same situation before, and we know how it feels. We have the EHF EURO experience, and we've been there and done it. If anyone can turn their fortunes at this stage it's us," concluded Lekic.

written by Nemanja Savic / ts


EHF EURO 2014 Medal Ceremony