Serbia will struggle to repeat Yugoslav-era success, says coach

Fri Aug 1, 2014 7:57am EDT
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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 anyone.”

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 expectations.   Continued...