When Yugoslavia made their appearance at the qualifications for the European Championships in 1995, no one expected that the team, emerging from years of sanctions that stopped them from competing at international level, would take home the bronze medal. Since then they have solidified their position as one of the world's best teams and their clear aim for their sixth appearance at the World League is to take the title.
The depth of the side is best remembered by recalling that their determination, legendary fighting spirit and skill gave them the biggest prize of all - the gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, a feat they repeated one year later when they took the European title in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Yugoslavia took the bronze medal at last year's World League, their best performance in five appearances, and finished fourth at the World Championship when France denied them a podium place. Their dominance can perhaps best be analyzed when considering that they have achieved the goal of having twice dismissed both Italy and Russia 3-0 in semifinals and finals of recent top competitions.
Led from the bench since the 2002 World Championship by Veselin Vukovic, who replaced Zoran Gajic as coach, the national lineup is rich in talent. The skills of the Grbic brothers Nicola and Vladimir, the fatal services of Goran Vujevic and the mighty block of Andrja Geric and Dula Mešter can be enough to dull the senses of any opposition. Add to this the enormous talent of the lofty 2.06 m Ivan Miljkovic, considered one of the best young players on the international scene, the side that from this year will be called Serbia and Montenegro, will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Nikola Grbic, Vujevic, Miljkovic and Mešter all play in the Italian league, considered the best in the world, and are constantly fine-tuning their skills against the world's best. Looking ahead to the European Championship, where Serbia and Montenegro will defend their title, the host country Germany's coach Stelian Moculescu echoed what many other teams surely think when trying to get a handle on the Yugoslavs.
"They understand each other blindfolded," Moculescu said.