Romania started the competition in a very bad way: they lost to Angola in the first round, then got smashed by a powerful Brazil in the second round. The third round was their breakthrough match, they beat Montenegro and scored their first two points in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Spain started a lot better: they beat Montenegro in the first round, and even though they lost to Norway in the second round, they defeated the hosts Brazil in the third round with a very good performance.
The two teams started hand in hand, but Romania was the first team to go to front with three goals (6-3). Paula Ungureanu did really well right from the beginning of the match, while Cristina Neagu and Melinda Geiger were the leading names for Romania in attack. Spain struggled to find the weapon for the Romanian team, they managed to score to reduce the difference to one goal, but they only managed to equalize once (8-8). The Romanians didn’t become desperate from the Spanish equalizer, seven minutes later the difference was three goals again, in favor of the East Europeans (12-9). The game didn’t really change in the last few minutes, Romania was up with two goals in the halftime break (13-11).
The beginning of the second half was clearly better for Romania: they netted four times without a Spanish response to be up 17-11 in the 37th minute. Spain seemed to be in trouble, but the -6 was a huge wake up call for the Iberian girls: in the 45th minute, they succeeded to equalize (18-18). They seemed to find the weapon against Neagu, they had the momentum and the power to score against Ungureanu, their defense came close to the level of their match against Brazil and it gave them the possibility to lead fastbreaks.
A minute later, Spain was already in front with one goal, and this time it seemed the Romanians could be in trouble for the remaining 15 minutes. However, this was not the case. Romania managed to equalize quickly, then Paula Ungureanu closed the doors to her goal. The Spanish girls were struggling hard to score against the Romanian goalkeeper, even from fastbreaks and 6m. After the Spanish goal that meant the lead for them, only Carmen Martín was able to score twice, no other Spanish player could beat Paula Ungureanu. On the other side, Cristina Neagu stroke again and secured a 24-21 victory for the Romanians. The Romanian dreams about quarterfinals are still alive, and it was proven once again that if Cristina Neagu is in a good day, then Romania is on a completely different level in the world of handball.
Rio 2016 – Women’s Handball Tournament – Group A, 4th round
Romania – Spain 24-21 (13-11)
Romania: C. Neagu 9(2), M. Geiger 5, L. Chiper 2, G. Perianu 2, A. Bradeanu 2, E. Buceschi 2, F. Chintoan 1, P. Vizitiu 1
Spain: C. Martin 4, N. Pena 4(1), A. Cabral 4(1), E. Pinedo 2, E. Chavez 2, M. Mangue 2, L. Gonzalez 1, P. Elorza 1, N. Egozkue 1
Penalties: 2/2 – 2/3
Suspensions: 4 minutes – 2 minutes