After an exciting and thrilling 19:17 victory against Spain, Romania have kept their clean record with the optimum of six points in Group A in Trier. Thus, they are already qualified for the eighth-finals as well as France after easily beating Paraguay. Like the French side, Slovenia (after beating Angola) and Spain are on four points. Angola and Paraguay remain on zero points.
Slovenia vs Angola 32:25 (15:15)
For 47 minutes, the match was on the edge after several changing leads, then the Africans were no longer able to stand the heat – and Slovenia took their second win. The clear result does not reflect the run-down of the match, which was on a high level. Slovenia were permanently ahead in the first half, then Angola improved in attack, taking their first lead at 17:16 in minute 32. After a triple strike, Slovenia were back on track, but still nothing was decided, when the African champions reduced the gap to 23:24. Within eight minutes, Slovenia netted in six unanswered goals to seal the deal at 30:23.
“We are very happy to win this crucial match and we are totally proud to be nearly in the eighth-finals after only three matches, what nobody could expect before the start,” said Slovenian coach Uros Bregar, adding: “Before the break we caused too many mistakes, in the second half our defence and goalkeeping decided the match.”
After their third defeat in three matches at Trier, Danish-born Angola coach Morten Soubak was disappointed: “We still need to improve, as we had not played concentrated enough in the second half. Slovenia deserved to win.” In the remaining matches against Romania and Paraguay only a miracle can provide the African champions with the ticket to the eighth-finals.
France vs Paraguay 35:13 (14:10)
France were the first team of Group A to qualify for the eighth-finals after an expected win against Paraguay. Surprisingly, the first half was more or less equal. France had problems in defence and were ahead by only four goals after the first 30 minutes. Then everything changed: after scoring a 11:3 series in the first 15 minutes of the second half, the deal was sealed – thanks to a great performance of goalkeeper Cleopatre Darleux, who was awarded Player of the Match with 18 saves in total. Paraguay did not score any goal after the 25:13, while the Olympic silver medallists added ten more.
“It was a game of two different halves. First we were not concentrated and made a lot of mistakes, then we played much better and took our chances,” said French coach Olivier Krumbholz. On the other hand, Paraguayan coach Neri Ruben Vera was proud of the first half: “We were really successful in stopping France before the break. But then the number of mistakes was too high.”
Romania vs Spain 19:17 (9:7)
For the third time, the more than 400 Romanians among the 1,724 spectators caused a home-match atmosphere in Trier – and were a decisive reason for the crucial win, after which the 2015 World Championship bronze medallist remain the only Group A team with a record of six points. “We felt like at home,” said Spanish-born Romania coach Ambros Martin, who faced several players he had coached on club level at Itxako.
Spain surprised the Romania side with an extremely movable defence. But again it was “Captain Cristina” Neagu, who took the responsibility. Netting in five times before the break, the three-time IHF World Player of the Year turned a 2:4 deficit into a 9:6 lead in a defence-orientated first half.
But Spain struck back and turned the tables and a one-goal lead at 10:9 truly put Romania under extreme pressure in attack. At the start of the last five minutes, Spain were narrowly ahead by 17:16, then Neagu netted her eighth goal right after Ana-Maria Dragut equalised. The final strike by Eliza Buceschi made the fans in the stands and the players on the court jump for joy.
“It was a great match of both sides, and each team could have won. I am happy about the skills of my team and now we will focus on the match against France,” said Spain coach Carlos Viver. His countryman and counterpart Martin agreed: “None of the teams should have lost today. Our victory was a product of our great team spirit.”
“I am so happy with the win, as we never gave up,” added Crina-Elena Pintea, who – for the first time in her career – was awarded best player of the match.