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EHF Euro 2010-Montenegro - “We can surprise Europe“
Bojana Popović has won the EHF Champions League five times, but at national team level she only has the bronze medal that she won with the Yugoslavian national team at the 2001 World Championship in Italy.
After a seven-year break from major championships, one of the best players of the decade, Bojana Popović, will lead Montenegro on their debut in a strong international competition.
ehf-euro.com: "For the first time Montenegro is participating at a major championship. How important is this for a country where women's sport isn't too well developed? Also, what will be the impact for the future of handball, if Montenegro performs well and achieves good results?"
Bojana Popović: "For the first time in its history, Montenegro is participating in a really big handball event and that’s a big step for such a small country. In Montenegro, women's handball is very popular and, along with football, which is in a big expansion, these are the most popular sports. I think that our participation at the EHF EURO 2010 will have positive effects for further investment in handball. With women's basketball, which also has room for improvement, handball will play a vital part for the development of sport in Montenegro."
ehf-euro.com: "Even on your debut in a strong European competition, your ambitions are set very high. This generation of Montenegrin players is at the peak of their careers. Can you express that ambition in concrete terms?"
Bojana Popović: "As this is the first time that Montenegro has participated in the European Championships, we must not immediately set the highest goals, for example, medals. We must go step by step, match by match. The pressure of such participation, where you play against the best handball nations, can be too much. We need to respect all of our opponents, but also, we know our qualities and believe that this is our chance to surprise some favorites, and handball people, across Europe. This means a possible fight for medals, if we stay healthy and with complete squad."
ehf-euro.com: "Is it making things easier, the fact that almost all of the Montenegrin national team is playing for Budućnost Podgorica? You are practicing together almost every day, have only one coach, live together, and know each other?"
Bojana Popović: "It’s very important that we are together in Budućnost. How important, you can see from the team’s performance in the Champions League. That is our advantage over the others. We have more training sessions and matches together. All the people who are working in sport know that this can be a considerable plus for a team. This is especially true for major competitions and decisive matches, when some small things decide whether you win or lose."
ehf-euro.com: "A win over World Champion Russia in the EHF EURO 2010 qualifications gave you the feeling that you can make something big happen and maybe repeat that in the Preliminary Round in Århus? The first match is against the Russians, and then you’ll face Iceland and Croatia."
Bojana Popović: "It’s in my nature to be optimistic. I’ve always had faith in myself and the team for whom I play. That's why I’m thinking that with a little luck, and without injuries and problems, we can go far. I’m sure that we have the quality to beat all of our rivals, and with six points, qualify for the Main Round. Nobody would be happy to play against us!"
ehf-euro.com: "If you qualify for the Main Round, which teams do you see in that "fight for medals"?"
Bojana Popović: "We’ll face many good teams in Denmark and Norway. The favourites for gold, as always, will be Norway and Russia. Behind them are Romania, Denmark, Hungary, Montenegro, and in my opinion, Croatia also has a very strong team. There are a lot of good teams, but performances will depend on current form and health." By: Žika Bogdanović, 15.11.10