Neagu wraps it up for Romania

FEATURE: After a mixed tournament of surprise wins and disappointment, Romania's Cristina Neagu talks about the EHF EURO 2014 from her perspective

Photo: Uros Hocevar

Cristina Georgiana Neagu is undeniably Romania's biggest star, which has meant a great deal of responsibility for her during the EHF EURO 2014.

The 26-year-old scored 49 goals during the first phases of the tournament, finishing the main round as top scorer so far.

The pressure put on her to perform and take the lead for Romania is obvious, but she is happy to accept it.

"I have been missing a lot of shooting, I know that, because I took a lot of responsibility in the tough moments of the game where maybe you have very small chances to score, but I took that because I am like that and I will always do that."

Neagu has been around long enough to know the way sport works, so despite the disappointment after missing the play-off for fifth place and the team finishing below their expectations, she is satisfied overall.

"I think we had a lot of ups and downs in the tournament. We started with a big loss against Norway, and afterwards we played better against Denmark. We succeeded with a victory against Ukraine and we went to the main round.

"The biggest disappointment may be the game against Hungary because on Wednesday we could have kept a chance for the semi-finals, but this is handball, this is sport, we need to look forward."

With a strong shot that reached 98 km/h in more than one of Romania's EHF EURO games, Neagu's strength is clearly attack.

From a team perspective, this is an aspect of their game the side need to work on for the future.

"We didn't have a left-handed right back so all our game has been concentrated on the left side of our attack.

"This was very hard for me and for the wing on my side because everybody tried to cut this side from our game, so we need to think about this in the future because there are a lot of movements you can play with a left hander. I think this was a big loss in our attack game as far as now."

Finding the right attacking combination is important to a team's success, but Neagu does not favour any player in the Romanian side as the one she works with best.

"In my team, all my players are my favourites."

Neagu knows Romania will need to improve their attack ahead of their World Championship 2015 qualification campaign.

Their defence on the other hand is more or less where it needs to be - the team always plays well at this end of the court when they are properly motivated, and knowing they have a strong goalkeeper behind them helps.

Goalkeeper Paula Claudia Ungureanu was outstanding during the main round in particular, recording an average 49% for these three matches.

"I think in the last three games we had a great goalkeeper and much, much better defence than in the first group and I think this made the difference actually.

"Unfortunately, it was hard to play after the game against Hungary because it was a big loss and everybody in our team hoped that we could play for the semi-finals and so on.

"But it's good that we could stand up after everything and we won two games in a row and this is fantastic."

After the EHF EURO co-hosts Hungary, Romania had some of the highest fan attendances of Group 1. Neagu made it clear how much this support was appreciated.

"I want to thank the fans for being here for all the games. They are fantastic and I wouldn't expect that this week there would be so many people after the Hungary game.

"So I want to thank them, they are great, and we would never win without them."

written by Courtney Gahan / ts


Group A: Russia vs. Poland