Defending vice-champion face the ignominy of an early Euro exit, as France defeat Serbia 31:28. The last match ofthe Group C in Aarhus saw Serbia provide little resistance against the Olympic champions, as the lackluster ‘Eagles’ finished the game without a single lead. France will carry the maximum 4 points into the main round, where they will faceCroatia,Sweden and Belarus, as the European championship goes into the Main round.
France made a statement early into the match, with the score 1-6, 8 minutes from the first whistle as a sign of things to come. The left-handed player from Celje, Nemanja Zelenović hit the top-left for3:7, replacing a disappointing Vujin. 17th minute strike from Nikola Karabatić sunk Serbia even deeper, as the 2012 Silver medalists were struggling to convert excellent individual quality into a team play. Joliset the score to 5:11 with a 7-meter goal, as the Player of the Match subsequently netting 10, all from the penalty line. Damage was done in the first half, as Matić could not find the right answer in rotation with his backs vastly unimpressive with 7 goals to catch up with 5 minutes to go. The ever-dependable DarkoStanić was playing a match of his own; as the Serbian goalkeeper denies Nikola Karabatić with an acrobatic save, allowing Nenadić do set 12:17 with the sound of a whistle.
Second half saw no significant changesto the result as Mitrović got a chance in place of Nenadić. 29-year old playmaker that started his career in Partizan Belgrade scored for 16-20, 38 minutes from the start. Sorhaindo, Nikola Karabatić as Luc Abalo continued to play in high standard, as Jolinets yet another penalty after 2-minutes suspension for Stojković with last 20 minutes to play. A brace from Rnić was a light at the end of a very long tunnel for Serbia, with the last 10 minutes having 24:28 on the scoreboard. It wasn’t the case of better late than never for Mitrović adding two assists to his name 5 minutes before the end, with the hopes fading. Wisla playmakerPetarNenadić who scored 5 to his name, but did little for the team play was left on the bench with the reserves Rnić, Mitrović and Zelenovićbeing the back-court trio. Debutant Djukanović saved a shot from Narcisse, but Joli (10 goals)was once again accurate from the penalty line.Nenadić scored his 5th goal in the dying seconds, but only after Anić sealed the faith of the ‘Eagles’ as high hopes for the Serbian team in are no more in this competition; 28:31 the final score.
France will put up aneven greater fight in the Main Round, two days from now in a bid to secure their third European champion’s title in eight years.
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC