Jet-lag won't dampen sharp Milojevic's act
By UNUS ALLADIN and JESSIE HUI
RED STAR Belgrade goalkeeper Zvonko Milojevic is fighting jet-lag after an 11th hour call-up to the Yugoslavian squad put him in the firing line for today's Carlsberg Cup final against South Korea at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Milojevic arrived in the territory last night for today's kick-off after Yugoslavia sent a distress signal to his club.
They called for an emergency 'keeper after injuries to their first and second choice men threatened to put wreck the squad's plans of making a successful comeback to international football after almost three years in exile.
Milojevic was literally taken off Red Star's team bus yesterday as his teammates were travelling to play an away match in Romania.
He was put on a flight to Paris then forced to rearrange his travel plans after an air-strike almost left him stranded in the French capital.
His 18-hour-plus flight to the territory was fortuitous since he managed to secure a seat on a Hong Kong-bound Cathay Pacific flight within five minutes of knowing that it would be impossible to travel on the original airline booked by the Yugoslav FA.
The Yugoslavian camp are hoping Milojevic's reflexes will be just as good as his quick thinking when he takes the field with new teammates - without the benefit of a match or even a day's training together.
Milojevic, who has several caps for his country, arrived at around 10.30 pm last night and with today's kick-off scheduled at 4 pm, he would have had less than 18 hours to settle in before facing a crowd expected to be in excess of 25,000.
It's a tall order for any player but Yugoslavia Football Association president Milijan Milunic has put his faith in the Red Star player and said: 'We were lucky to get a proper goalkeeper after injuries to our first and second goalkeepers made it impossible for them to play.
'Milojevic is a good player and we trust he will play well despite the problems he faces.' Yugoslavia's goalkeeping problems arose after their emphatic 3-1 defeat of the Hong Kong League XI last Tuesday.
First choice 'keeper Goran Pandurovic suffered a back injury after a collision with Hong Kong's Dale Tempest and a day later the Yugoslavs were dealt a another blow when their number two 'keeper Aleksandar Kocic twisted his right knee while training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
Yugoslavian ace midfielder Dragan Stojkovic, who is nursing a right ankle injury, declared himself fit for today's crunch match and said: 'We have been very unlucky to be without our top two goalkeepers. Our third goalie is a very good player and I hope he has no problems.
'He has performed very well when he last played for the Yugoslav team so we are counting on him. We are now ready to play South Korea. Our opponents are very tough. I saw them play at last year's World Cup in America and I was quite impressed by them. We can expect a hard game.' While Yugoslavia have their share of problems, South Korea seem to have gone from strength to strength with World Cup midfielders Cho Jin-ho and Ko Jeong-woon ready for the big game.
The pair missed South Korea's 1-0 victory over Colombia and should considerably strengthen the team's midfield which seemed to be lacking in their first match.
A team spokesman said: 'We are aware of Yugoslavia's goalkeeping problems and it should help our cause. We are fit and ready for the challenge.
'We are confident of victory. We defeated a stronger team in our first match and we can do it again against Yugoslavia.' Colombia's World Cup goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba is ready to make his Hong Kong debut in today's third-place play-off against the Hong Kong League X1.
Coach Hernan Dario Gomez said yesterday he wanted to be fair and give both 'keepers their chance to play in the four-team tournament.
'Oscar [Cordoba] has been trying very hard to take over Rene's [Higuita] place,' Gomez said. 'Both of them have similar style, so it will not affect our organisation.
'Hong Kong are very strong and fast,' Gomez added. 'And there is pressure on us since we have already lost the first game to South Korea.' Cordoba, who plays for the Colombian professional side American De Carli, said he was impressed by the performance of Eastern's right-winger Lee Kin-wo.
'Lee was very fast, skilful and his crosses and passes from the bye-line were excellent,' Cordoba said. 'We'd better watch him carefully.' The Hong Kong League XI will also replace their goalkeeper, with South China's Dutchman Werner Kooistra making way for Eastern's 'keeper Iain Hesford in the consolation game.