Comeback for CervarArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 23, HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

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Comeback for Cervar

Olympic champion, world champion and several times silver medallist at world and European championships – Lino Cervar has won nearly every possible competition with the Croatian national team.

Now the coaching legend is back on the big international stage.

Success came with Cervar

Since 2009 Cervar is head coach of Metalurg Skopje, the champions of FYR Macedonia – and his winning series is absolutely superb.

On national level the Metalurg team have reached 68 victories in the era of Cervar until now, lost only one match and tied also only once.

Return to the European stage

After missing the qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League last season against Minsk, now the FYR Macedonians are among the 24 best teams of Europe again.

And Metalurg start with high ambitions into the VELUX EHF Champions League: "Any victory in the Group Stage would be a success. So even as we do not have any pressure, we are heading for the knock-out stage" is their motto.

Strong and experienced reinforcements

As the team from the FYR Macedonian capital is participating in three competitions, MKD League, SEHA international Balkan League and VELUX EHF Champions League, they improved their squad tremendously with international experienced players.

New number one among the goalkeepers is Serbian national team member Darko Stanic, who arrived from Cimos Koper. He will face his old team mates in the Group Stage again.

Zarko Markovic (earlier in Veszprem) arrives from Saudi Arabia and defence specialist Miladin Kozlina came from Göppingen (Germany).

Winners of Qualification Tournament

Even a meniscus injury could not stop the Slovenian international to help his team at the successful Qualification Tournament in Israel, where Metalurg first beat the hosts and then the Norwegian champions Haslum to reach the Group Stage.

Kozlina had to undergo surgery right after this tournament – but Metalurg hope that he will be fit until he start of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

President made changes

Club President Risto Cokrev is aiming high – and does not fear their Group Stage opponents like Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Constanta, Koper or Plock:

"We are a well organized club which would have deserved to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League last season. Unfortunately we made some mistakes, were unprepared for the qualification format and failed.

So this year we made some changes, increased our organization, improved the quality of our team and thus managed to qualify for the Group Stage."

Cokrev promises excitement

"All our opponents are well known teams. It is not an easy group no matter what the first sight looks like. We are going to fight until the last second of every match.

Even as I cannot promise one, two, three or four victories, I can promise fair games and a lot of excitement at every match.

We are going to play for the victory in every match, we respect all opponents, but are not afraid of any of them, including Hamburg," says Cokrev.

Mojsoski sees fourth place

Playmaker Naum Mojsoski gets more into detail: "We have good chances to reach the Last 16, but it will not be easy.

Our group is not very attractive, but our opponents are teams which we can beat. Hamburg are clearly the best, Koper and Wisla are favourites for the second and third place.

Metalurg, Constanta and St. Petersburg will battle for the last remaining position for reaching the Last 16.

In our arena we can beat all opponents, so I hope that we will be the surprise team of this VELUX EHF Champions League season."

Regional league participation

But the FYR Macedonian champions also hope for a successful start in the SEHA Balkan league, where they aim to reach the Final4 tournament in Sarajevo, too.

Three questions to coach Lino Cervar: What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League – concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Lino Cervar: After two seasons in which we won everything in the national championship, it is now time to show our qualities throughout Europe.

We worked hard over the whole summer, we deserved to win the Qualification Tournament in Israel and have achieved our first goal.

Now we are focused on what is coming up in the Group Stage. We played without two very important players in Israel, but soon we will be complete.

The VELUX EHF Champions League is a big challenge and reaching the Last 16 will satisfy our ambitions. It will not be easy, but we have a chance and we are reaching out for it. What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Lino Cervar: Playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League is a big deal for us and we must improve ourselves on every level.

After last year’s elimination, we now are back on big scene and must do everything to remain there as long as possible.

A lot of hard work is ahead. It is a great challenge but at the same time a great satisfaction.

It is a very strong competition, when you consider that this season teams like Rhein Neckar Löwen or Valladolid did not manage to qualify.

So the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League is a great chance to continue growing at all levels. What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?

Lino Cervar: I believe in three clubs: Barcelona, THW Kiel and Atletico Madrid. They are still on top; others are maybe not that far away, but far enough to consider those three clubs as the clear favourites.

Club facts – HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

Newcomers: Darko Stanic (Cimos Koper/SLO), Zarko Markovic (Al Ahly/EGY), Miladin Kozlina (FA Göppingen/GER), Damir Batinovic (Maribor/SLO), Zarko Peshevski (Metalurg youth team), Jovica Milenkovski (Tinex Prolet)

Left the club: Lazo Majnov (SD Teucro/ESP), Goran Gjorgonoski (end of career), Ivan Smigic, Filip Lazarov, Duje Miljak, Marko Curuvija (all released during last season)

Coach: Lino Cervar, since 2009

Qualification for the 2011/2012 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Winner of the Qualification Tournament 3, Champion of FYR Macedonia

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2011/2012 season): 4
Group Matches (2): 2006/2007, 2008/2009
Qualification (1): 2010/2011

Other EC records:
9 participations in other EC

Macedonian champion: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011
Macedonian Cup winner: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011

Further information

Find more information on HC Metalurg Skopje HERE.

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TEXT: Björn Pazen