Serbia's Boskovic keen to face Malkia Strikers' again
What you need to know:
- There is an outside chance of both teams meeting at the World Championships if Serbia, who are the defending champions, advance from Pool ‘C’ and Malkia Strikers qualify for the second round from Pool ‘A’.
- Kenya is in Pool ‘A’ alongside European and VNL champions Italy, hosts Netherlands, Cameroon, Puerto Rico and Belgium.
In Arnhem, Netherlands
Serbia’s star opposite player Tijana Boskovic is relishing the challenge of facing Kenya at the World Championships that served off on Friday at the Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands.
Boskovic, who was the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 edition held in Japan, starred in Serbia’s 3-0 wins over Kenya at the previous World Championship and at last year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
There is an outside chance of both teams meeting at the World Championships if Serbia, who are the defending champions, advance from Pool ‘C’ and Malkia Strikers qualify for the second round from Pool ‘A’.
Kenya is in Pool ‘A’ alongside European and VNL champions Italy, hosts Netherlands, Cameroon, Puerto Rico and Belgium.
Serbia, who also finished third at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, are in Pool C of the World Championships alongside Olympic champions USA, Germany, Bulgaria, Canada and Kazakhstan.
Only the top four teams from the four first round groups qualify for the second round.
“We played against Kenya at the last World Championships and (Tokyo) Olympics. I really like to play against them because they have great energy on court. They really enjoy playing volleyball and that’s what I like the most. I hope we meet again in this edition,” Boskovic told Nation Sport.
After skipping this year’s Volleyball Nations League, Boskovic is eager to guide her country to their second world title after their 3-2 triumph over Italy in the 2018 final. Serbia face Canada in Arnhem in their opening match on Sunday.
Italy, led by opposite Paola Egonu, will once again be Serbia’s biggest threat at the World Championships after winning this year’s VNL and dethroning Serbia as European champions last year, beating them 3-1 in the final.
In the absence of Boskovic, Serbia finished third in the 2022 VNL after losing to Brazil 1-3 in the semi-finals.
A well-rested Boskovic told Nation Sport that she is ready to guide Serbia to a successful title defence after taking a deserved break.
“I needed this break because last year, the national team competitions were really long and difficult. We played the Olympic games then afterwards the European Championship. After that I joined my club for the Turkish league. I felt my body needed a break that’s why I skipped VNL. I feel fresh, full of energy and ready to give my all to the team,” said Boskovic.
“We know that every tournament that we play in the last four years, everybody has big expectations from us, especially people from our country because we always bring medals and good results. We have had two months to prepare so we don’t feel any pressure. There are many great teams in this Championship, it will be difficult to win the gold medal again but we will do our best,” she added.
Boskovic is eager to avenge the straight sets loss to USA in the Tokyo Olympics semi-finals but warned against underrating their other Pool ‘C’ opponents.
“All teams in our group are very good. The first game we will play is against Canada who we played in the VNL. They have a good team but for sure USA is the most difficult opponent in our group. I think it’s good to have a strong opponent at the beginning of the competition but all teams that have qualified for the World Championship deserve to be there. No matter who we play we will try to win all our games because every point will help us to move to the next round,” offered Boskovic.
It was put to her that her rivalry with 2022 VNL MVP Egonu always comes to the fore whenever Italy and Serbia clash.
However, Boskovic downplayed the prospect of going head-to-head with Egonu in the final, insisting that team glory will always come before individual accolades for her.
“I am not thinking of who we will face in the final. I am happy that there are many great players in this competition and it’s always challenging to play against them. I am looking forward to many interesting games,” replied the 25-year-old.
It remains to be seen whether Boskovic's inclusion will have a telling impact on Serbia who will be without star setter Maja Ognjenovic at the World Championships.