Injury-hit Craiova still hope for quarter-final ticket
Overperforming and exceeding expectations will always bring a boost of adrenaline and send a wave of happiness and excitement into both the fans’ and the players’ hearts. But what happens when the season ends and you have to do it again, now with the bar set so high one cannot feel anything other than insecure?
This surely is the case with SCM Craiova, the Romanian underdogs who shocked several strong teams as they bulldozed their way to winning the Women’s EHF Cup last season.
After a disappointing qualification tournament for the Women’s EHF Champions League, where they lost against Podravka Vegeta by the slimmest of margins, Craiova were back in the Women’s EHF Cup. Yet the team could not look more different.
Four influential players left this summer, while disaster struck over the winter when another two crucial players were injured.
Top goal scorer Cristina Zamfir and playmaker Ana Maria Ticu, who would have featured in the Romania national team at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018, were sidelined. Their absence hampered Craiova’s chances of progressing to the next phase and defending their title. Moreover, veteran goalkeeper Florentina Stanciu also created a void between the posts, after another ill-timed injury.
However, a win on Sunday against Bera Bera, combined with a Podravka victory versus NFH, would send Craiova through to the quarter-finals.
“It is a tough moment for the team. We are powerless now, but we hope we can proceed to the next round. We are humans, not robots, and injuries happen,” said Zamfir.
“I had my most beautiful moment in my career when we won the Women’s EHF Cup last year and we are all working to repeat that performance. It is hard, but it is beautiful,” added Zamfir.
“The Craiova way”
Regardless of anything that happened, Craiova’s recipe remains the same while Bogdan Burcea is the coach: Grit, fighting spirit and a good defence.
Anything else and coach Burcea would deem it an insufficient effort.
Craiova may be last in the group after the first five games. However, with 113 goals conceded, or an average of 22.6 per game, they have the most effective defence in the competition.
The 18:12 win to throw off the group against NFH was a defensive masterpiece, but the injuries and a lack of depth have taken their toll on the title holders.
“It has been a tough year for us. It is the first time as a coach when I had so many injured players. But we must stand united and fight for every ball,” said Burcea.
The 46-year-old Romanian coach is upbeat about Craiova’s chances to progress to the next stage of the competition.
“Before the start of the group phase, I said that this should be a learning experience for all the players. It was, but it was also a tough season, judging by our results.
“Now, our fate is out of our control, but we hope that Podravka win against NFH and we complete our mission against Bera Bera. It would be the Craiova way, but it is a beautiful one,” concluded Burcea.Author: Adrian Costeiu / cg