They say goalkeepers are like wine – they get better as they age. Experience is crucial for a shot stopper, as learning the small tricks that can get you inside the opponent’s head is not something that can be learned overnight or even in one season.
A goalkeeper cannot work without good defence in front of her, but intuition, agility and experience are the qualities that separate the top players from the rest of the crop.
There is a long list of goalkeepers who earned their biggest accolades after their 30th birthday, making Romania’s Denisa Dedu and Yuliya Dumanska’s achievements at the EHF EURO 2018 even more special.
Dedu, 24, and Dumanska, 22, are the youngest pair of goalkeepers at the EHF EURO 2018. Yet after the preliminary round, the duo have earned Romania the highest number of saves, at 42, and the top percentage, at 36.
But how did two relatively inexperienced players, who have never plied their trade in the Women’s EHF Champions League, achieve such superb statistics?
A veteran at 24 years old
While Dumanska is a rookie at the EHF EURO 2018, Dedu is at her third tournament, joining the Romania team at the age of 16. She needed time, and had ups and downs, but is now ready for the biggest challenge in her career.
While Dumanska had an excellent game against the Czech Republic, Romania’s goalkeeper coach Jaume Fort agreed with his two pupils that Dedu fit better in the second game against Germany. Her 13-save outing confirmed his intuition.
“We do not care who plays more if the other one does her job. There is no competition between me and Yuliya. We are two young goalkeepers who have only one focus – to help our team,” says Dedu, who currently plays for Siofok in the Hungarian League.
A long road until this point
Both goalkeepers have won a Player of the Match award at this tournament, with Dedu rewarded for her performance against Germany, while Dumanska boasted 14 saves against Norway to bring Romania a record-breaking win over the defending title holders.
“It is like we are living a dream. I am very proud about what we achieved. It’s like I am on cloud nine. It is a beautiful feeling,” says Dumanska after the win against Norway.
The 22-year old SCM Ramnicu Valcea goalkeeper was instrumental for her club last season, when she made the decisive save that saw her former team, SCM Craiova, lift the Women’s EHF Cup after a victory against Vipers Kristiansand.
Born in Ukraine, Dumanska came to Romania when she was 14. She did not know the language or how to adapt in a foreign country. But she was not one to shy away from a challenge. Every day she took Romanian lessons, learning the language and the country’s history, until she officially became a citizen in 2016. Now, Dumanska is singing the anthem with a fiery passion and is fluent in Romanian.
“My games would not be so good if it were not for my teammates. They help me a lot. And I am really glad I make a good team with Denisa,” says Dumanska. “She is a wonderful teammate, who is always there with advice.”