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Debuting Montenegro set for Olympic splash
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Montenegro's water polo team is counting on more than beginners' luck for its first shot at Olympic greatness.

For the 'Red Sharks' of the Adriatic republic, the newest state at the Beijing Games, it is all a question of balancing old with new, the experience of the Yugoslav powerhouse and the hunger of a young team with a nation's hopes on its shoulders.

"I've taken part in two Olympics and we have six players who were in Sydney and Athens, but this is the first Games we are going to as Montenegro," said coach Petar Porobic.

"We are certainly real competition for the best teams in Europe, we are currently in the top six, seven teams in the world. With the motivation that comes with going to the Games, we can be in the top six, but we can also do better."

Montenegro voted to leave its union with Serbia in May 2006, yet another state to emerge from the political and sporting power that was the old socialist federation of Yugoslavia.

The split was bittersweet for two nations that had lived together for 90 years and for a team that won silver in the 2004 Games and a world championship gold in its three short years under the flag of the 'State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.'

The last hurrah was winning the water polo World Cup in June 2006, two weeks after Montenegro formally declared independence.

Porobic, a Montenegrin who coached the union team throughout that time, had no time for sentimentality. He threw himself into setting up a new team for his motherland, almost from scratch.

"We managed to get the berth in a really short time, we set up the team in late 2006 and we got an Olympic place in 2007," he said, beaming with pride, just before the first World League tournament for the European zone in the town of Budva.

His team went on to win all three matches against Croatia, Italy and Greecebig names it will meet in Beijing next month. "I think that in Europe there is no other national team with such a small number of clubs in the country, such a small pool of players to pick from," Porobic said.

Montenegro has only three clubs: Jadran, Primorac and Budvanska Rivijera.

"Surely we owe a lot  where we are to the fact that the Serbia-Montenegro team was a big power, but we also organized ourselves quickly and well," he said.

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