They lost their semi-finals against Russia and France in similar style, overpowered in the second half by physically stronger opponents. Now Romania and the Netherlands can prove who has recovered the best from the disappointment as they meet for the penultimate match of EHF EURO 2018 on Sunday.
Both teams are after their second piece of European Championship silverware: Romania won bronze once before, in 2010, while the Netherlands took silver two years ago.
Romania vs Netherlands
Sunday 16 December, 14:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
Romania and the Netherlands will have a déjà vu on Sunday afternoon, seven days after they also met in their opening game of the main round. Until then, they were the only unbeaten teams at EHF EURO 2018, and the Dutch kept their streak going with a 29:24 win.
“We are tired, it is the eight game we play in France now,” Romanian line player Crina Pintea says. “But we want to give it our best and avenge the defeat against the Netherlands in the main round.”
Although only one week has passed since their previous match, a lot has happened. Romania have lost star player Cristina Neagu because of a knee injury, while the Dutch also have had their share of injury worries, with captain Nycke Groot missing much playing time and Martine Smeets and Jessy Kramer out for Sunday’s game. Smeets has been replaced by Inger Smits.
With both teams heading into their fifth match within eight days, fatigue obviously could become an issue. However, the prospect of leaving the tournament with a medal will spur them one more time.
“Placing fourth is worse than being out earlier in the competition, so my only thought is winning the bronze medal,” says Eliza Buceschi, who led for Romania with eight goals against the Netherlands last week.
While Romania lead 5-2 in the overall head-to-head stats, the Netherlands won both times the teams met an EHF EURO event, back in 1998 and again last week.
Dutch left back Lois Abbingh is expecting a close match with a hard fight against Romania.
“I don’t think anyone still has the energy to play beautiful handball, it will be battling for 60 minutes,” says Abbingh, adding that “we can already be very proud” as the Dutch entered the tournament with low expectations, after several key players were missing from their squad.
“Before the tournament we were not sure we would get past the first round,” Abbingh says. “But we have a realistic chance of beating Romania and we must grab that chance.”
For Dutch teammate Maura Visser, who already played at the EHF EURO 2006, Sunday’s game will be the last of her international career. She is looking forward to playing at the sold-out AccorHotels Arena again.
“I am 33 and this schedule of eight matches in a few days, my body needs too much time to recover from that,” the centre back says. “Playing in this arena is really great. That’s what you play handball for and why you train so hard every day. I will enjoy it to the fullest one more time.”