Repost. The final of the 1990 WCh : USSR vs. Yugoslavia

This unique document was uploaded to YouTube by Stankekamera. I watched it out of curiosity, having only a vague idea of Morskova’s solid build (1.84m; 78kilos) and of Kitić’s preference for bare skin. This match is a reference for several reasons:

1. History

This is the last confrontation between the two blocks, before their dissolution in 1991. Their domination of the sport (“supernations’ handball) came to an end. USSR would compete at the 1992 Olympics under the name of The Unified Team and would win the bronze medal. Former Yugoslavia would continue to be represented by players from Serbia and Montenegro until 2006. In 2001, the inheritors of these two handball traditions, would medal again in the World Championship in Italy.

2. Handball Technique

The pattern of the game is significantly different from the one practiced today: painstakingly established attack (because no pre-passive play warning existed at the time), less breakthroughs, more 9m shots, focus on the centre position, great individual skills. We can actually spot some traces of these models in today’s former Yugoslavian and Soviet nations. Nonetheless, the defence has become, as a general improvement, mobile and offensive. Moreover, the pivots (Russia’s case) and the wingers (FYR countries case) are nowadays better integrated in the collective play. In contrast, I can’t think of many players today that are as good passers and shooters as the 1990 players. Was the ball controlled with both hands because the resin was worse?

3. Players’ Biography

The online information on the players is scarce, so this video is the only way people will learn that Dragana Pesic was the Anita Gorbicz of her time in terms of inventiveness and unpredictability and that there is a long tradition of making skilled Russian wingers and goalkeepers.

The players that we see on the field during this game and their positions are:

Svetlana Kitić (RB) was 30 at that time. She was the Primadonna of the game, in the way she moved, in the way she looked, with a permanent air of superiority.

  • Olympic Games: silver in Moscow 1980 and gold in Los Angeles 1984;

  • European Champions Cup with Radnički Belgrade in 1984;

  • Yugoslav Sportswoman of the Year in 1984;

  • IHF World Player of the Year 1988;

  • IHF Best Female Player in History.

Maja Bulatović (LB) was 22 and one of the few Budućnost players in the team. The Montenegrin would later become the icon of the small state, but she would never get to play under their colours.

Svetlana Antić (LP) was, as she recalls in this interview, an atypical pivot, tall and stout. Hardly could one find someone bigger than the Russian pivots nowadays. On the contrary, both pivots we see on the court Tjan and Prjachina were of medium size.

  • Gold medal at the 1984 Olympics;

  • All-Star Team LP at the 1990 WCh;

  • European Champions Cup with Hypo Vienna in 1992;

  • Plays for Austria at the 2000 Olympics;

  • Stops her career in the French club of Besançon at 38, after winning the Cup Winners Cup.

Dragica Đurić (GK) is no other than the current goalkeeper coach of the Serbian Women’s Team. She talked about the Los Angeles and the Seoul OG to balkan-handball: “The most significant medal is definitely the gold from Los Angeles. Because of one bad half we stayed out of the fight for the gold in Seoul, four years later. My generation was not very lucky, because we were forbidden to go to Barcelona in 1992, and that year, in all tournaments, we were by far the best team. We played great. The realistic potential of that generation was three Olympic gold medals …”

Other players: Dragana Pešić (CB) Olga Sekulić (only during the opening minutes) Stanica Gole (LW), Stana Vuković (RW), Katica Lješković (GK), Tanja Polajner (defender, LP).

Natalia Morskova (LB) was 24 and already a respected player. She would become a monument of the ‘90s.

  • Two Olympic bronze medals in 1988 and 1992;

  • In 1991, she leaves Russia (and natal Rostov) for Valencia;

  • Top-scorer of the Champions League in ‘94, ‘97 and ‘98;

  • 1998 Champions League winner with Mar Valencia;

  • She eventually obtained the Spanish citizenship and played 49 games under their flag.

Elena Nemaskalo (LW)

  • Olympic bronze medal in 1988;

  • All-Star Team LW at the 1990 tournament;

  • She played for Spartak Kiev and won 7 European Champions Cups

  • From 1995 on, she  played for Croatia. Her daughter, also a winger, is currently a member of the Croatian NT.

Svetlana Bogdanova (GK) 26 at the time. Being asked how come she had such a long career (like her colleagues, Vydrina, Morskova, Nemaskalo), she says: “My generation of Russian players is a very strong one, we recover fast and we are used to a lot of training.”

  • She won bronze with The Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics;

  • 1998 Champions League winner with Valencia;

  • She ended her career in Itxako;

  • She was voted by the Russian Federation the best Russian GK of the 20th century.

Other players: Svetlana Vydrina (RB), Galina Onoprienko (CB), Marina Bazanova (RW), Tijan and Svetlana Prjachina (LP).

00:03:07 – First shot of the game taken by the Russian RB, Vydrina, and the first save for Đurić.

00:03:30 – Morskova 1:0

00:03:45 – An out-of-this-world assist from Kitić to the LP, Antić. Early on, we get the feeling this woman really likes to toy with the defence in front of her. 1:1

00:04:20 – The Russian playmaker, Onoprienko, succeeds in a rather girlish breakthrough. 2:1

00:04:50 – Sekulić gets injured and so Maja Bulatović comes onto the field. Oh, but was it a RC foul?

00:06:40 – Kitić with a RC foul on Nemaskalo who receives the penalty. 3:1

00:08:20 – 4:1

00:09:45 – Bulatović’s first goal. 4:2

00:10:30 – Beautiful action with Bazanova and Morskova in LW position. 5:2

00:10:50 – Time for for some left-handed-Pešić-passing to the pivot. She feigns by spreading her right arm, while keeping her left one close to the body. 5:3

00:11:40 – Kitić scoring very much like Bojana Radulovics. 5:4

00:12:50 – 6:4

00:13:45 – 2min Kitić, And Vydrina seems one solid penalty shooter. I wonder if she missed any during the game… let’s see! This is already the 3rd Russian penalty – they speculate very well the gaps in the Yugoslavian wall. 7:4

00:15:30 – Morskova 8:4

00:16:25 – A lob from RB position – Kitić. 8:5

00:17:12 – The quality of the Russian passing is close to perfection – they are not only creating space, but they are also creating a beautiful display of passes around the back and releases in the air. 9:5

00:18:25 – 9:6

00:20:30 – An action between the two wingers. 10:6

00:21:45 – Another girlish feint that works well. Pešić scores with almost no push in her feet – well pulled off. We have to say that both goalkeepers were underperforming at that point. 10:7

00:24:10 – 11:7 Bazanova

00:24:40 – The first Yugoslavian goal coming from the wing (Gole). 11:8

00:26:10 – Kitić’s shot in place goes in and the Yugoslavians think they are back in the game. 11:9

00:26:45 – A counterattack phase perfected with an over-the-shoulder pass from Pešić to Antić. The shot is missed, as Svetlana Bogdanova starts to warm up in the goal.

00:30:00 – A beautiful save by Bogdanova who afterwards launches the fastbreak. 12:9 Prjachina

00:31:30 – 13:9 Vydrina

00:33:50 – Kitić was a bundle of nerves and made some rush decisions in defence. Another suspension. 14:9 Vydrina

2nd half

Katica Lješković substitutes Đurić.

00:37:20 – 14:10 Bulatović

00:38:15 – 15:10 Morskova

00:38:50 – 15:11 Pešić can shoot too. But I’d rather take her no-look passes and the fitted detached hair.

00:40:10 – 16:11 Vydrina

00:43:10 – 17:11 Morskova

00:43:40 – 17:12 Bulatović

00:45:10 – 17:13 Kitić

00:45:45 – 17:14 Bulatović signs the 2nd Yugoslavian comeback with an audacious breakthrough.

00:46:20 – 18:14 Vydrina, old school. When you compare this to Kitić’s and Pešić’s impossibles angles, you get the picture of two opposite handball worlds: the Yugoslavians lacking in the physique department, the Russians not much into plain embellishments.

00:47:15 – 19:14Vydrina

00:47:40 – 19:15 Bulatović

00:49:00 – Watch Pešić agreeing with Antić on their next move and prepare for something fine! 19:16 Antic’s backwards shot ending a cascade of beautiful passes. – Comeback n° 3 within 3 goals and I am thinking, come on Russians! Aren’t you tired, just a little bit?

00:50:00 – With the enchanted goblins working the wing? No way. Vydrina scores her 15874008th penalty. 20:16

00:50:40 – 20:17 Bulatović

00:51:20 – Kitić’s act is one of the highlight of the game. Indomitable Kitić! Pešić lobs the goalie from the 7m. 20:18 “Tri gola” situation overcome. We have a match!

00:53:00 – 20:19 Gole. 14min to the end

00:53:30 – Vydrina assists the pivot and hell freezes over. 21:19 Prjachina

00:56:25 – The usual state of tension creeps in, when teams do foolish things like wrong substitutions. 12min left

00:57:20 – What a move, what an angle, what a reaction! 22:19 Nemaskalo

00:58:00 – Pešić with a classic. 22:20 On the replay, you can count 4 steps, but in live action there is no way you could tell that small hop she takes when she receives the ball.

00:58:30 – Bazanova 23:20

01:00:55 – Kitić 23:21 At 30 she runs the fastbreak like a maniac.

01:01:55 – 24:21 Morskova. 7min to go

01:04:19 – GK n° 2 with two crucial consecutive saves against Kitić. 5min

01:05:20 – Vydrina misses her first penalty of the day. 4min

01:06:09 – Pešić shows that sometimes you better keep it simple. 3min

01:07:42 – See what happens when Morskova shoots the GK in the face!

01:10:25 – 24:22 Pešić

01:12:35 – 24:22 FT