Shoot-out with the minister of defenceArticle
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NEWS FEATURE: The ll-Serbian duel of Vujin vs. Stanic will be in focus when Metalurg face Kiel in the quarter-finals

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Shoot-out with the minister of defence

They were celebrating together on the podium in Belgrade in January 2012, but on Saturday Marko Vujin and Darko Stanic will be opponents on the court. Vujin and Stanic were key players in the Serbian national team, which took the silver medal on home court at the EHF EURO 2012, now Stanic will try hard to stop his mate, when Metalurg Skopje face THW Kiel in the first leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-final, set in a very special atmosphere of the Boris Trajkovski Arena.

"We have to go through a handball hell,“ says THW manager Klaus Elwardt, who expects an act of defiance from his players after the 26:29 defeat against Rhein Neckar Löwen in German Bundesliga on Wednesday, which knocked Kiel off first position in the German Bundesliga. “But we know how hell feels, and as it still our main goal to clinch a berth for the VELUX EHF FINAL4, we need to beat Skopje on aggregate.”

Team captain Filip Jicha shares this opinion: “We know that we play in the ‘hottest’ of all arenas of Europe. Metalurg will be hot, the fans will hot, the arena will be hot – anything but easy for us! From their performance level we can compare Metalurg with Rhein Neckar Löwen. But this defeat must be a wake-up call for us, if we want to stand the pressure in Skopje. These matches, like in the Boris Trajkovski Arena, are what you train for all season.”

Insider knowledge

But the one who knows frenetic Balkan atmosphere best of all Kiel players is Serbian right back Marko Vujin (29), the current top scorer of German Bundesliga (214 goals in 29 matches). Before travelling to Skopje on Friday morning, the Serbian hopes that quarter-final history will repeat for THW Kiel, the club he has played for since 2012.

“Last season we had to face Veszprem in the last round prior to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and we withstood the tough pressure from the stands, when we won in Hungary. I expect the same frenetic and incredible atmosphere and the same pressure in Skopje,” says Vujin, bearing in mind that in contrast to 2013 “we have the second leg match at home, which might be an advantage.”

After five straight national championships with Veszprem (2009-2012) and Kiel (2013), the left handed shooter hopes to proceed to the final destination Cologne again, like in 2013, when THW lost both FINAL4 matches against Hamburg and Kielce: “120 really tough minutes are ahead for us, and we know that we need to improve clearly compared to our defeat at Löwen on Wednesday. But we can make a huge step towards Cologne already in the first leg.”

Vujin does not have a “wishful result” for the first leg, as his opinion is clear: “I don’t want to talk about matches, I want to play and score.”

Regarding his duel with the Serbian “minister of defence”, as Stanic was nicknamed after his brilliant performances at the 2012 EHF EURO, Vujin remains humble: “In my opinion, Darko is the best goalkeeper in the world. He is one key to the success of Metalurg. I do not have to focus on him, but on me to be successful on Saturday.”

In general Vujin is surprised and impressed by the Macedonian sides in this Champions League season: “It is a great success for Macedonian handball to have two teams among the best eight in Europe. They are both doing a good job in Skopje.”

One of these Serbians will definitely make it to Cologne and the shoot-out between the sniper and the minister of defence will be a crucial in deciding which one it will be.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor