06 Feb. 2024
Romania men’s national team qualified for a major international competition for the first time in 13 years, when they secured a place at the Men’s EHF EURO 2024, but the 22nd place was a reality check for the four-time world champions.
However, the result also left many question marks for coach Xavi Pascual, as the former Barcelona mastermind decided to meet an end to his second stint as the Romania coach, after having led the team between 2016 and 2018 and over the last three years.
“It was not an easy decision to make, but I was very tired. I think there is a need for a new person in charge, for somebody who can use and nurture the potential the team has. I am happy with what we did at the European Championship, but I think there is more potential. We need a plan to create a better environment for our players,” said Pascual in a press conference.
As Romania will be facing Czechia in May in the Qualification Europe Phase 2 – Part 2 for the 2025 IHF Men’s World Championship, the process of finding a new coach was quickly put up and the outcome was announced by the Romanian Handball Federation in a press conference, with the unveiling of George Buricea.
A former left wing that represented Romania as a player, with 120 goals in 116 caps, Buricea, who is 44 years old, accepted the challenge immediately, after making his former club side, CSM Constanța, shine, by winning the Romanian Cup and finishing third in the Romanian league in the past two seasons, with wins over Dinamo, Pascual’s club side, in the process.
“Xavi Pascual has clearly the larger experience in handball and I know he worked a lot for better results with the national team. However, experience is not everything. I know Romanian handball very well, I have been here for more than 30 years. I think this balance some things out,” says Buricea.
“I want to create a team that fights for every ball, fights every minute, does anything to win the matches. I want to create a true family, like I did for my club team, Constanța, and if we manage to do that here, we have achieved something excellent.”
Only one team – France – have won the IHF Men’s World Championship more times than Romania, who created a true dynasty, securing the gold medals in 1961, 1964, 1970 and 1974.
Romania have also won the bronze twice, in 1967 and 1990, but have since gone off the radar, making their last appearances in 2009, when they finished 15th and in 2011, when they ended up 19th.