Norway had enjoyed a 26-game unbeaten streak in the preliminary round before EHF EURO 2018, but records are there to be broken. And while the loss against Germany on Saturday (33:32) was costly, the one against Romania on Wednesday will surely hamper their challenge to defend the title.
The holders will start the main round in Nancy with zero points after their loss against Romania, while Ambros Martin’s side are now the favourites to push for a semi-final place, as they are tied with Netherlands at the top of their main round group with four points.
Norway vs Romania 23:31 (12:18)
If ‘total handball’ existed, it would have been the one played in Brest in the first seven minutes between Norway and Romania. The two teams traded blows, but there was no chance of the deadlock being broken, as the 6:6 scoreline could hardly be any more realistic.
While Romania had Cristina Neagu back in top form after she broke the EHF EURO goal record in the last game against Germany, Norway relied heavily on their line players, with Kari Brattset scoring three times in the first ten minutes.
A 4:0 run for Romania, masterminded by Neagu and Eliza Buceschi was the first turning point of the game, as Ambros Martin’s side jumped to a 12:8 lead.
There was no stopping Yuliya Dumanska between the posts, as the 22-year old goalkeeper racked up six saves in the first half. But luck was also on Romania’s side, as Norway hit the post four times, to help their opponents take a 18:12 lead into the dressing room.
Even the most optimistic Romania fan could not believe his eyes when their team was a dominant force against Norway, but nothing was decided yet, as Romania led so many times by a huge margin only to falter in the second half.
Sure enough, after a seven-minute stint without a goal for Romania, Norway cut the gap to only four goals, 18:14, two minutes into the second half and there was pressure mounting on the Romanian side.
But a 3:0 run, with three goals from Neagu, who scored five goals in a row between the 22nd and the 38th minute, brought back Romania to a seven-goal advantage, 21:14.
A bewildered Norwegian side failed to contain Romania, as Neagu scored eleven goals to hand Norway their biggest ever defeat ever at EHF EURO level, while Dumanska stopped 14 shots to record a 44% save rate.
Romania will start the main round with four points, while Norway will have a mountain to climb, starting at zero.