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News Details

Date: 7/14/2016

Montenegro qualified for the 2016 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship after missing two consecutive editions of the tournament, in 2012 and 2014. The successful qualification was therefore a momentous achievement for the Junior side, who follow in the footsteps of one of the most powerful senior women’s teams in the world. 

After Montenegro became an independent nation in 2006, the senior women’s team began to experience success in 2010, when they qualified for their first major international tournament – the European championship. There Montenegro ranked sixth, but at their second participation in 2012 they claimed the title. 

That victory came six months after they finished with the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, and the two together cemented Montenegro’s reputation as one of the most formidable women’s teams in the world. 

Though the senior squad have not experienced the same level of success since, they have come close on more than one occasion and many of their players have enjoyed individual triumphs with their clubs. Indeed, Montenegro boast some of the top female handball athletes in the world, with the likes of right back Katarina Bulatovic, who always finishes among the top scorers at any event, Milena Knezevic and the outstanding wing pairing of Majda Mehmedovic and Jovanka Radicevic – all of whom played for EHF Women’s Champions League team Buducnost until the end of the 2015/16 season. 

Members of the Montenegro Junior side therefore have a bright future to look forward to, with such role models and only the opportunity to develop lying in front of them. Though the team may have been disappointed to finish 17th on the final ranking, they ended their campaign on a high when they won the President’s Cup with a strong performance against P.R. of China. 

Montenegro won the match 27:23, with five goals scored by right wing Dijana Ujkic, who showed with her performance and her fighting spirit that she is ready to work hard to follow in the footsteps of players such as Mehmedovic and Radicevic. 
“I feel so wonderful,” said Ujkic after the game. “It's finished for today. We are so happy, and I'm so happy – for my team and my performance.”

Ujkic says one of the biggest challenges for her side at Russia 2016 was their young squad, most of whom were born in 1998 or 1999. In comparison the majority of the Junior sides at the World Championship have a squad of mainly players of the 1996-1998 generation. 

“I think we have a young team. A very young team. For a World Championship we have a very young team and we lost, but we have time to develop.”

The Buducnost wing knows she and her teammates have plenty of time to put in the work that could see them join the ranks of the senior side, and they learned a lot in their Russia 2016 campaign that will help them do so. Playing against nations from outside their continent, such as China, has been a difficult but invaluable learning experience for the European team: 

“It's so hard because China is so fast. They have a great team, but we have heart, you know!” 

Ujkic says that heart and supportive atmosphere within the team and strong all-round performances were what helped them secure the win against China in the President’s Cup final: “The key was the whole team, together.”