Soccer - Political pressure may be a spur
EDEGEM, Jun 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav coach Vujadin Boskov said on Sunday international political pressure on the country could motivate his players to do well in Euro 2000.
Western nations have imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Belgrade over the past decade, most recently in protest at the actions of Serb and Yugoslav forces in Kosovo.
Although the sanctions are intended to punish the Yugoslav government, Boskov said they could act as a spur for his squad.
"Personally I think this can be stimulating in this situation for our players to show that we don't deserve this political pressure we have all the time," he said at the team's training base near Antwerp.
Boskov's players, who face Slovenia in their Group C opening match in Charleroi on Tuesday, have already paid a price for their country's isolation from the West.
After they qualified for Euro 2000, no major European nation would play them in warm-up friendless, which have been an integral part of other teams' preparations for the tournament.
"We haven't played against teams at our level," acknowledged 30-year-old central defender Nisa Saveljic.
"No one would play against us. It's not our fault, it was the fault of politics," the Girondins Bordeaux player said.
Instead, the team embarked on a much-criticized tour of the Far East, which included defeat by a Hong Kong select.
Saveljic said heat and humidity in the Far East meant the team's form there was not a reliable guide to their chances in Euro 2000, where they also face Spain and Norway in Group C.
Coach Boskov said he had a fully fit squad to choose from for the Slovenia match. He would select the team after all his players took part in a training session on Sunday evening, although the core of the side was already clear.
"There are seven or eight regular players who know they'll be playing," the former Sampdoria boss said.
Bora Milutinovic, the veteran Yugoslav coach who has been in charge of four different teams at four different World Cups, was on hand at the team hotel on Sunday to wish the squad well.
The much-traveled Milutinovic, now coach of the Chinese national team, praised the atmosphere in the camp. He declined to predict how far the Yugoslavs would go in the tournament, preferring to quote an old coaching adage.
"You have to think match by match," he said. "It's dangerous if you think long term."