RomaniaCoach: Adrian Vasile
Romania have been a perennial contender at the last IHF Women’s World Championship editions, finishing on the podium twice and taking a fourth place in the last eight editions.
Their results came courtesy of having a transcendental talent in their ranks, superstar Cristina Neagu, who scored 186 goals in four editions, lifting the Romanian side into contention.
Neagu, the top scorer at Denmark 2015, when Romania finished third, winning the bronze-medal game against Poland (31:22), will not help her side at Spain 2021, as she decided to take a sabbatical year from international handball to rest her body after a string of injuries.
The impact will be felt hard by Romania, who narrowly avoided a loss against Austria in the Qualification Phase 2 for the Women’s EHF EURO 2022 game, snatching a 33:33 draw in the last second of the game.
The hit will also be felt by Adrian Vasile, the newly-minted head coach of the Romanian women’s national team, who was appointed in January as previous coach Bogdan Burcea came under heavy pressure after a 12th-place finish at the Women’s EHF EURO 2020, the worst-ever finish for the Romanian side in the competition.
Vasile himself, who is also the head coach for Romanian champions CSM Bucuresti, was under scrutiny after his side were hit and miss both against the Faroe Islands and against Austria in the Qualification Phase 2 for the EHF EURO 2022.
“We must preach patience, because this is a very young side. We need to be cautious, build a new side and learn through our errors, because there will definitely be some.
“This is a new side, we are trying to build something and the lack of experience could cause several problems,” said Vasile after the draw against Austria.
Besides Neagu missing, the focal point of the Romanian attack, the side have to deal with more losses, which will make their task even more difficult.
Romania will also miss centre back Eliza Buceschi, a mainstay in the back line for the ‘tricolore’ in the past decade, who scored 206 goals in 84 games for the Romanian side.
Goalkeeper Denisa Dedu, who made her debut as a 16-year-old at the IHF Women’s World Championship 10 years ago, is also out of contention, after taking a year off to give birth.
October was also a difficult month for the Romanian side in the injury department as influential line player Crina Pintea suffered from a torn calf muscle during the game against Austria, with her appearance at Spain 2021 becoming doubtful. If Pintea is given the all-clear, she will not have played for nearly two months before making her debut during the competition.
Another crucial blow is the absence of Gabriela Perianu, a defensive specialist and Pintea’s partner in the centre of the Romanian defence, who is also recovering after a devastating knee injury.
Therefore, one of the most ambitious sides in the past decades will focus on rebuilding the side at Spain 2021.
“We will strive to make the best results we can, but, as I mentioned before, the challenge will be very high. I know we, as Romanians, do not have patience, but I reckon it will need some time to build a good team,” concluded Vasile.
However, both the Romanian fans and the Romanian side are proud – this is the only side to have played in all of the IHF Women’s World Championship editions and they have never finished lower than 17th.
Most likely, it will stay this way, as Romania will be favoured against Kazakhstan and Iran and, if they qualify, against a non-European side from Group D who will feature in the main round.
However, against Norway in the preliminary round and against Sweden or the Netherlands, both sides who could face the Romanian team in the main round, Vasile’s side will play the role of the underdogs.
Key players: Cristina Laslo (centre back), Yuliya Dumanska (goalkeeper), Lorena Ostase (line player)
Qualification for Spain 2021: Qualification Europe Phase 2 – Winners versus North Macedonia
History in tournament: 1957: 9th, 1962: 1st, 1965: 6th, 1971: 4th, 1973: 2nd, 1975: 4th, 1978: 7th, 1982: 8th, 1986: 5th, 1990: 7th, 1993: 4th, 1995: 7th, 1997: 12th, 1999: 4th, 2001: 17th, 2003: 10th, 2005: 2nd, 2007: 4th, 2009: 8th, 2011: 13th, 2013: 10th, 2015: 3rd, 2017: 10th, 2019: 12th
Group at Spain 2021: Group C (Norway, Romania, Kazakhstan, Iran)