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Date: 7/31/2010

Bronze final:

Korea – Montenegro 23:24 (10:12)

They danced on the field, they jumped in the Tiger hall, they were singing and waving their flag: WCH surprise team Montenegro has gained their next and final success: Thanks to a highly close thriller the Juniors won the first ever Bronze medal for their country in international handball.  The Europeans defeated the clearly favoured WCH host Korea in the Bronze final of Seoul. Match winner for Montenegro was top scorer Milena Knezevic (in total nine goals), who scored the four last – and decisive – goals for her team in the last two minutes and turned minus to plus and a real joy. Like in the semi against Russia the Koreans left the field heads hang low – as they missed their fifth Bronze medal in Junior WCH history very close.

“This is the biggest victory in every competition,” Montenegro’s coach Dragan Adzic said: “But it was absolutely hard for us, as we had to play ten matches with the same line-up.”  Milena Knezevic shared this opinion: “The whole tournament was very tough, but this is an enormous success for our small country.”

On the other hand the Koreans again were totally disappointed. For coach Baek Sangsuh the tiredness of his players was the reason why they lost the matches, and: “The turning point was the injury of Eunbi Lee in the second half.” Top scorer Ryu was crying in the press conference, when she summarized the game:  “Though we were tired we wanted to win this match, now I have real worries for the people that supported our team. I feel really sorry for missing this medal!” Baek balanced the whole tournament: “We learnt that we have to prepare even harder for World Championships, we need physical and mentally more training.”

Everybody expected a very weak Montenegro team in the Bronze final, as their batteries already were low in the semis. But surprisingly the European team played very powerful in the first half and reduced the speed cleverly, as the Korean tried hard to play with counter attacks. As the Korean defense was well prepared for the Montenegrinian attackers like Knezevic the Balkan team waited long until they had the chance to score. On the other hand their defense – with physical advantages to Korea – stood strong, including goalkeeper Marina Vukcevic, who saved some important shots. Both teams started hectic and nervous and didn’t score much in the very beginning. But as Montenegro had found their rhythm the quality of the match arose. After the 8:6 (the third Knezevic goal) Korean coach Baek took his time-out, but his team couldn’t come closer until the break.  Despite the loud and frenetic support of the fans in the Tiger Hall in Seoul Korea couldn’t catch up right after the break – in contrast: Montenegro increased the lead to 19:16 in minute 42. And as top star Eunbi Lee had to be replaced after a face injury and later-on an ankle injury (she saw the rest of the game lying on a stretcher) the hopes went low.

But then the fighting spirit and the will to win this medal on home soil arose again at the WCH host. It took only eight minutes, as Korea equalized at the score of 20:20 (the sixth goal of Eunhee Ryu), as the Montenegrinians were gasping for air – but both teams were out of power in their 10th match in 14 days. And again Ryu (in total ten goals) brought the first lead (22:21) to Korea in minute 54, after Mehmedovic had missed the goal with a penalty shot. The hall went crazy, but the resistance of Montenegro hadn’t been broken. As Knezevic scored two consecutive goals the Europeans were in lead again, but Montenegro had to play short-handed in the last two minutes after a suspension.  With cleverness Montenegro kept the ball, as the time was running out for Korea. 28 seconds before the end Knezevic decided the game with a direct free-throw to the score of 24:22, the last Korean goal came too late.