Dominant defence helps Serbia power past Argentina

21 Jan. 2023

Dominant defence helps Serbia power past Argentina

Serbia got back to winning ways after a strong passage of play between the 23rd and 41st minutes against Argentina, which opened the path to a clear 28:22 win against the South American side, who are still in last place in the group.

Main Round Group III

Serbia vs Argentina 28:22 (12:10)

With both teams virtually eliminated from a quarter-final berth contention, Serbia and Argentina faced off in Katowice with two points at stake, which could have contributed to a better finish in the competition provided they were secured.

Yet the sides facing off in the opening match of the day in Group III of the main round at Poland/Sweden 2023 were two of the ones that were playing with the most pride for the shirt, colours and badge, with a fiery clash expected despite the lack of chances for progressing to the knockout phase.

Indeed, Argentina, who had previously lost three of the four matches played at Poland/Sweden 2023, with the only win being against another European opponent, North Macedonia, threw some surprises in the mix as coach Guillermo Milano decided to deploy a seven-on-six attack even from the first attacks.

However, with Serbia, who were still aiming to position themselves to have a fighting chance of qualifying, being dangerous on the fast breaks, Milano toned down his attacking approach. Yet, Argentina still had some success, taking a 9:8 lead after 22 minutes, with their wings being especially proficient with six goals combined from Francisco Lombardi and Ramiro Martinez.

The only caveat was that Serbia’s defence was hardly the one that had managed good games in the previous matches of the tournament. And when they really turned on the heat, Argentina had serious issues. With a 4:1 run to end the first half, as the South American side scored only once in the last seven minutes and 42 seconds, Serbia took control of the match, 12:10, and entered half-time with a morale boost. 

That run continued in the second half and became the backbone of Serbia’s win. The European side outscored their opponents 10:3, creating a big six-goal lead, 19:13, with 10 different players on the scoresheet until the 45th minute.

Coach Toni Gerona also gave the keys to the attack to centre back Stefan Dodić, the 19-year-old wunderkind who delivered some impressive assists to his teammates, with Serbia controlling the match without a hitch.

With their attacking efficiency improving to 74% until the end of the match, after being down to 36% in the first half, the European side enjoyed some excellent saves from goalkeeper Dejan Milosavljev, who was once again in red-hot form, finishing with six saves for a 38% saving efficiency, all of them made in the second half.

Eventually, Serbia’s defence proved too strong for Argentina, who could only score 12 times in the second half and conceded their fourth loss in five matches in the competition (28:22).

With four points and one match left, Serbia are not eliminated from contention for a quarter-final berth. Still, their fate is out of their hands, needing a win against the Netherlands in the last match while also seeing Germany losing both matches. Still, the goal difference will be key as Serbia lost the first match against Germany by a single goal.

Argentina will avoid finishing in last place in the group only if they win against Qatar on Monday, which means they will surely take a step back from the 11th-place finish at Egypt 2021.

hummel Player of the Match: Marko Milosavljevic (Serbia)