An experienced and internationally proved core and a youth, ambitious and „cheeky” other core can form a really great mixture for the Montenegrin team to the 17th FINA World Championships, Budapest. This squad which is going to come to Budapest as the silver medallist of the European Championships, 4th placed in Rio and 5th placed team in the previous World Championships is standing before a generational change. Water polo is a national sport in Montenegro, lots of people sympathize with them. Moreover, several players of the team are playing in Hungarian clubs so this event can be very emotional for this team.
Hungary, the host country of this World Championships and Montenegro played their last game with each other at the two previous Worlds Championships. But while back in Barcelona in 2013 that match was in the final (won by Hungarians) later in Kazan in 2015 they fought for the 5th place what was gained by Montenegro.
That silver medal from Barcelona is the biggest success of Montenegrin team, they haven’t reached the semi-finals during the other three participations. But is doesn’t mean that they have reason to complain. Montenegro is still shining on the sky of the international water polo life since they took the stage.
In their first international appearance, they won the European Championships right away: in Malaga (in 2008) only Croatia could able to defeat them on the group stage even so they won the group A ahead of Greece, Spain, Croatia and Hungary reaching the semi-finals in that way.
Among the four best they hit back to Croatia (9-7) and in the very emotional final beat Serbia after extra time (6-5).
The current head coach of Montenegro, Vladimir Gojkovic was member of that team and Drasko Brguljan, Aleksandar Ivovic, Mladjan Janovic, Predrag Jokic, Vjekoslav Paskovic, Zdravko Radic and Milos Scepanovic also, all of them were in Rio de Janeiro, on the last Olympic Games taking the fourth place there.
It is the main and biggest question about the silver medallist team of the European Championships in Belgrade (2016) and Eindhoven (2012): how many players will finish their international career and how young the summer team will be. It seems: very much. (The average age of the squad was 30,46 in Rio de Janeiro).
According to Bojan Sukovic, responsible for PR of the Water Polo and Swimming Federation of Montenegro told that after Rio 2016, Predrag Jokic and Zdravko Radic definitely retired from Montenegro national team. Aleksandar Ivovic skip the next tournament (the World Championships in Budapest), while other players, like Mladjan Janovic, Vjekoslav Paskovic, Drasko Brguljan and Aleksandar Radovic will make a decision together with coach Vladimir Gojkovic before the start of the directly preparations.
Drasko Brguljan who plays in the Hungarian league for several years has said before that it is difficult to imagine to miss the World Championships which will be held in Budapest where he lives.
Vladimir Gojkovic has started the work with a great enthusiasm and his situation is a little bit easier because most of the potential young players of the national team are playing in Jadran Herceg Novi managed by him. So, he can see the players’ development every day.
Young players have showed their quality in February on the Volvo-cup in Budapest. Montenegro won that tournament beating Hungary by 9-4.
„We started a new programme with a lot of young players. We need some time it is not easy to prepare them for the first competition but I think two or three of them will find place for the World Championships. They played very well in Budapest for example and that was a very good opportunity for them to show their potential. They know that if they work hard they have the chance to be in the first team of Montenegro which will play in Budapest on the summer” – said Vladimir Gojkovic.
He added some words about the venue of the World Championships:
„It is one of the best place to play water polo. I played there a lot with my club and with the national team and we have good results from there in the past, I hope the same for the future.”
The experienced centre of the Montenegrin team, Sasa Misic, playing in Hungary for several years as well, is confident before the World Championships:
„This is a young team, a very young one and we don’t have a pressure to win a medal. We just want to give our best in the pool day by day. But I believe in this team, Montenegro is always among the top three or top five national teams in the world. Our young players have an obligation about the past. We want to win on every game. Like always, Serbia, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Spain and of course Montenegro have the chance to win a medal. This Championships can be very interesting because a lot of team can able to reach the podium.”
One of the young players of the team, Stefan Vidovic scored four goals and played excellent in defence against Hungary on the Volvo-cup. With this spectacular performance, he might have just secured his place for the 17th FINA World Championships’ roster.
„This tournament was our first step to the World Championships. We have a new team with a lot of young players but without a lot of experience. We expect to improve game by game, we need to work very hard and I hope we will have a good result in Budapest”.
During the draw of the 17th FINA World Championships it turned out that Montenegro will face against Brazil, Kazakhstan and Canada in group A in the group stage.
Montenegro in the FINA World Championships
silver medallist (2013, Barcelona)
5th placed (2015, Kazan)
7th placed (2011, Shanghai)
9th placed (2009, Rome)