Serbia will struggle to repeat
Yugoslav-era success, says coach
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[August 01, 2014]
By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Accustomed to
basketball glory when they were part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia
will struggle to be more than also- rans as an independent nation at
this year's World Cup in Spain, their coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said.
The 46-year old former playmaker, one of Europe’s most decorated
players, believes that even a fraction of the success his generation
enjoyed in wealthier times is unlikely in the foreseeable future.
“That’s history and there is no point at reminiscing about it,” a
grim-faced Djordjevic told reporters after a training session on
Thursday in Belgrade's Pionir Hall, where he started his career at
Serbian champions Partizan.
“Our results as an independent nation have made it very difficult
for us to feel as medal contenders in any tournament, although it
has to be our objective in the World Cup.
“It is feasible only if the players and staff believe that we can
punch above our weight throughout. We will not be favorites against
Having played a strong role in winning eight European titles, five
World Cups and one Olympic gold medal as the biggest nation in the
former Yugoslavia, Serbia have only managed a runner-up finish at
the 2009 European Championship as an independent country.
Devoid of talent like Djordjevic and his peers such as former NBA
stalwart Vlade Divac, the Serbians have had European supremacy
wrestled away by Spain and most recently France, who won their first
European championship last year.
Captain Nenad Krstic, at the age of 31 the most experienced player
in a youthful squad, outlined a combination of reasons why the
Balkan nation’s fans and pundits must lower their perennially high
“Djordjevic’s generation was always going to be a hard act to
follow,” the towering center said while nursing a niggling knee
injury which has put question marks over his involvement in the
24-team World Cup starting on Aug. 30.
“The success of that outfit, which shone even as rump Yugoslavia
(consisting of Serbia and Montenegro) was rooted in a country
consisting of six nations which are now all single," he added.
“Other European teams have improved and their progress makes it that
much more difficult for us to win even an occasional medal, let
alone a succession of honors which the whole country took for
granted in the past.
“Spain have a production line of top talents who have made
transitions almost seamless when senior players retire. They are the
European force that Yugoslavia was and the favorites to win the
World Cup alongside the U.S."
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Guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Nedovic epitomize fresh blood in
Serbia’s squad, particularly the latter who had a difficult first season
in the NBA at the Golden State Warriors and spent much of it in a
second-tier development league.
Despite Nedovic being a fringe player for the Warriors, Djordjevic
believes the 23-year old could be a trump card as the Serbians aim to
reach the last 16 from a tough preliminary group including Spain,
France, Brazil, Egypt and Iran.
“We have high hopes that Nedovic’s athleticism will be a telling factor
in crunch games and we are trying to bring the rest of the squad up to
his physical level,” the coach said.
“But he also needs to understand that speed without the ball is as
important as his explosive movement with it.”
Nedovic acknowledged that he benefited from the stiff challenge of
breaking into the Warriors roster.
“I expected more from myself but the trials and tribulations have made
me stronger, helping me mature as a player and as a person,” he said.
“The rookie season in the NBA is a massive challenge for all European
players and I’ve improved just from being in a more competitive
"I am aware that my role at the Warriors is to back up (playmaker)
Stephen Curry, who has the ability to score 50 points against any
Nedovic could face Curry in the knockout stages of the World Cup and the
Serb conceded that holding their own against the Americans would be a
“The U.S. will be the odds-on favorites to win the tournament no matter
what roster they come up with because their resources are immense,” he
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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