Montenegro starts the European Championship as the number 25 in the worldwith which it does a bit better than the Belgian Lions in 37th place.
However, Montenegro had not originally been part of this tournament. The country could not place in a group with France, Great Britain and Germany, which was certain of the European Championship as the host country.
Montenegro was later still fished out because Russia was exiled by the invasion of Ukraine.
With only 620,000 inhabitants, Montenegro is a Little Thumb, but in basketball the Balkan country is traditionally big. The Montenegrins will miss their star player this tournament, Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls, but still made it to the European Championship with a strong selection.
Without Vucevic, who reportedly wanted a quiet summer, Montenegro still has one NBA player: Marko Simonovic. The 2.11m forward/center is a teammate of Vucevic’s with the Chicago Bulls, although he didn’t make more than 9 games last season.
A name that undoubtedly rings a bell with Belgian basketball fans is that of Vladimir Mihailovic. The 32-year-old sniper has a history at Ostend and Aalst, where he was elected MVP in Belgium in 2021.
Furthermore, Montenegro draws on many players who earn their living in the strong Spanish league, such as Dino Radoncic (Zaragoza), Nemanja Radovic (Murcia) and Bojan Dubljevic, Teammate of Sam Van Rossom for years at Valencia.
To divide the game, Montenegro traditionally counts on a naturalized American. This time it is 29-year-old Kendrick Perry, who will be working for Malaga in Spain next season.
At the previous European Championship in 2017, Montenegro made it to the 1/8th finals, where it was beaten by Latvia. This time the Montenegrins hope to do at least as good or even better.
Because even without star player Vucevic, Montenegro has a very strong whole, with a team where danger can come from all sides. The fact that the team defeated the strong France in the preliminary rounds of the World Cup earlier this summer says enough about Montenegro’s qualities.
Connoisseurs regard Montenegro as a “dark horse”, a possible surprising outsider at this European Championship. With an unexpected medal, Montenegro would already make history as the smallest country ever on the European Championship podium.
The Montenegrins are already under a lot of pressure today. They lost their 1st group match to Turkey by 4 points. In the event of a loss against Belgium, Montenegro may already be able to put away its ambitions.