Romania and the Netherlands are the only two teams which still boast a flawless record at EHF EURO 2018, but Russia is still a force to reckon with regardless of their loss against Slovenia in the last match of the preliminary round. ehf-euro.com ranked the 12 teams qualified for the main round.
The Montenegrin side threw off the tournament in exciting fashion, 36:32 against Slovenia, but faltered when it mattered the most. Starting the main round with zero points will be an enormous challenge for Montenegro, yet they could be inspired by Jovanka Radicevic and Katarina Bulatovic’s experience. They need more in defence and a better performance from their goalkeepers, as requested by coach Per Johansson in a timeout against France.
If it were not for a goal conceded in the final two seconds of the game against the Netherlands, Spain would have not started the main round from scratch. But two defeats, especially the 32:26 drubbing at the hands of a young Hungary have made Spain fighting for their lives. They have the experience, but historically, teams that start with zero points in the main round have little chance.
Who would have expected the title holders and the team who played the last eight finals at the Women’s EHF EURO events to lose two of the first three matches and start the main round with zero points? Norway must win all their games against Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands and even in that scenario they will not be sure of proceeding to the semi-finals
It was hardly spectacular handball for the Swedish fans, but two narrow wins against Serbia and Poland ensured that Henrik Signell’s side is through to the main round. It is true that their only defeat against Denmark, 30:29, could have been prevented if Nathalie Hagman did not miss a penalty in the last second, but Sweden need to find more consistency if they want to challenge for the semi-finals.
A young Hungarian team was without a chance against the Netherlands, but a huge win against Spain, 32:26, proved that there is something there. Kim Rasmussen, a Women’s EHF Champions League winner with CSM Bucuresti, is a coach that knows a thing or two about motivation and he will clearly inspire his side in the main round.
Their emphatic win against Norway, 33:32 is still the biggest surprise at EHF EURO 2018, but Germany showed their limits against Romania. The young team still produced an impressive comeback from five goals down in the game against the Czech Republic, which should boost the morale. Yet questions linger about their defence when put under too much pressure.
It has been a topsy-turvy tournament for Denmark, who earned a great win to throw off EHF EURO 2018, only to falter against Serbia, when a win would have seen them top their main round group alongside Russia with four points. They will surely rue the missed chances, yet they have a great 65% shot efficiency in attack, with their top scorer, Trine Jensen, missing only one shot on the course to 16 goals in the preliminary round.
Two defeats against Romania and Russia in the last friendly games before the EHF EURO 2018 did not help, yet Serbia thrive in difficult conditions. Their win against Poland, 33:26, to throw off the tournament was straightforward and Serbia could have been even better if they did not lose by the slightest of margins against Sweden. A 30:25 dominating win against Denmark showed that Serbia are not here to be taken lightly, while their scoring prowess did not come from star Andrea Lekic, yet from left wing Katarina Krpez Slezak, who scored 26 goals in the preliminary round.
Everybody knows the French approach that helped them win the World Championship last year. Defence, defence and defence are the main ingredients for a masterful French side who conceded only 67 goals so far, the least of the 16 teams taking part at the EHF EURO 2018. Of course, their attack is not stellar, but they seem to produce quality handball and find goals from scratch, which most teams fail to achieve. Playing on home court, in front of sold-out arenas, helps too, therefore one cannot rule out France.
Losing Danick Snelder and Yvette Broch from the team that earned the silver medal two years ago was a big blow, but the Dutch side did what they know best and are among the favourites for another semi-final spot. Their defence has taken a step back from the previous tournament, they rode their luck against Spain, when Helle Thomsen’s side needed a last-second goal from Lois Abbingh to seal the win. Matches against Norway and Romania surely seem to be tougher, but ignore the Dutch side at your own risk.
Irrespective of their loss against Slovenia in the last round, which will not count in the next phase of the competition, Russia have showed tremendous attacking prowess and a stout defence. Goals seem to come from everywhere, so the well-rehearsed team could do serious damage in the next phase. Playing against two Nordic sides could prove a challenge, but up until this point, Evgeni Trefilov’s side had character and came back from behind both against France and Montenegro to claim their wins.
No team has scored more goals at the EHF EURO 2018 than Romania and no other team has Cristina Neagu on their side. But the real masterpiece is the Romanian defence. Romania is not a collection of players anymore, it is a team, and if they can maintain this rhythm, they can go a long way at this tournament. Moreover, both Neagu and Eliza Buceschi scored 24 goals, only two less than current top scorer Katarina Krpez Slezak (SRB). So there are plenty of reasons why Romania is the team at the top of the power rankings of the EHF EURO 2018.