Montenegro and Romania run over Uruguay and Denmark
March 19, 2016
Montenegro opened the Olympic qualification group in Aarhus, Denmark, with a 34:19 win against Uruguay, before Romania steamrolled Denmark 32:25 Friday night.
By Peter Bruun
Uruguay vs Montenegro 19:34 (10:15)
Before the Match
Uruguay had the advantage that their opponents did not know much about them in advance. However, this was just about the only advantage, the team from South American had. Montenegro was the obvious and sky-high favorite against a crew from Uruguay, that arrived in the arena barely half hour before throw-off.
It took the rather unconcentrated Montenegrins a while to overcome an optimistic Uruguayan outfit, who appeared determined to play for their chance. In fact, the South American girls managed to keep up with the huge favorites most of the first half, before they had to give in during the last 10 minutes.
From the start, Uruguay showed, that they did not come to Denmark to roll over and getting “slaughtered”. The South Americans took a 1:0 lead on the very first attack of the match and repeated the success at 4:3 and 6:5.
It was understandable that Montenegro needed some time to read their opponents, but still, Uruguay were able to offer surprisingly good resistance for a good part of the first half. An extremely aggressive defense caused the Montenegrins quite some trouble at the start, and not until the 18th minute, did the handball powerhouse get their first two-goal lead, when Katarina Bulatovic made it 8:6. In the last minutes before half time, Montenegro managed to create a decent lead.
Again, Uruguay scored the first two goals after the break, but from then on things turned out as they inevitable had to, considering the difference in quality between the two squads. Soon, Montenegro increased their lead to 21:14 and 27:15. Even though the performance of Montenegro’s defense was still not impressive, coach Adzic’s team manufactured an acceptable 15-goal win in the end.
For the brave Uruguayan ladies, another mission impossible awaits, when they play against Romania on Saturday. Montenegro started out with the expected win but a much improved effort, not the least mental approach to the game, will be needed, if Saturday’s game against Denmark is going to turn into another victory.
Romania vs Denmark 32:25 (19:13)
Before the Match
The game was the first meeting between the two teams after the intense and dramatic quarter-final at the World Championship, in Denmark, in December 2015, where a last second goal secured the Romanian win and the semi-final berth, after extra time.
Barely, two weeks ago, Romania had defeated Norway 25:20 on home soil, in the qualification game for the European championship in Sweden later in December, but they also lost 27:17 in the return leg against the same opponent.
Coach Ryde’s squad had also lost a friendly match against Sweden (32:29), while the Danes came off two clear losses against Russia, in the Euro qualifiers. Thereafter, Denmark´s coach, Klavs Bruun Jørgensen, admitted to be uncertain of the prospects of his injury handicapped squad.
The Danes succeeded in containing Cristina Neagu. The 27-year-old queen of Romanian handball – and maybe of women´s handball – who scored 15 goals in that notorious quarter-final back in December – only scored four goals this time. However, this was the only success, a handicapped Danish team could celebrate. There were plenty of other players that took over, in a well-playing and hard-working Romanian team. In fact, coach Ryde’s crew was dominating the affair from beginning to end.
Romania jumped out of the gates and quickly led 6:2 and 8:3 without much trouble. The Danish defense was virtually non-existing in the first 30 minutes, as Danish defenders were running after their opponents most of the time, while the goalkeepers Rikke Poulsen and Sandra Toft were unable to contribute in a meaningful way. Most of the time, Denmark scored easy goals, but that did not help much, since Neagu & Co scored even more easily and more frequently on the other end of the court. It was no wonder, that Romania – who did a solid job, while making very few mistakes – could take a six-goal lead at half time.
The Romanian squad continued to dominate against a Danish team that was still looking for solutions. It helped a bit in the Danish attack when Camilla Dalby replaced Mette Tranborg as right-back. But Dalby´s shooting powder soon turned wet as well. In defense, the Danes remained helpless. It did not matter if they stayed back or moved some players forward; Romania managed to find scoring opportunities and benefited from them.
When Rikke Poulsen finally managed to save a Romanian penalty shot, another penalty was awarded – apparently Louise Spellerberg had entered the area too early. Needless to say, that the following shot from the seven-meter spot crossed the goal line properly. The Romanians went ahead by 10 goals (32:22) with three minutes and 20 seconds left, before the Danes were allowed to improve on the final score.
Highlight of the Match
The most impressive moment came nine minutes into the game, when Valentina Elisei brilliantly caught a long pass from goalkeeper Paula Ungureanu – just before the six-meter line – and managed to send her shot into the Danish goal in one and the same move, making it 8:3.
A home match – for who? On the outset Denmark looked at it, as having a big advantage, when they were awarded hosting status for the qualification group. But a couple of hundred Romanian fans – who were just as loud as the rest of the spectators – virtually turned the match into a home game for the team from southern Europe.
For Romania a walk-over against Uruguay awaits on Saturday, while Denmark faces a “do-or-die” match when they clash with Montenegro. Another defeat, against Katarina Bulatovic & Co. will translate into saying “goodbye” to the Olympic dream in Rio.