Back on the spot: the coach who was a school principal before North Macedonia 2022

Exactly eight years and one day ago, Romania were crowned winners of the 2014 IHF World Youth Championship (U18) after a stellar run of eight wins and one draw.

It seemed to be a golden generation for Romanian handball, with three players – left defender Bianca Bazaliu, central defender Cristina Laslo and linebacker Lorena Ostase – making the All-Star team and later the senior women’s team of Romania, along with extreme left. Alexandra Dindiligan.

However, as generations come and go in the younger age groups, sometimes the coaches stay the same because it takes a certain skill set to develop young players, to nurture them, to understand them, to correct their mistakes and prepare you for the next levels.

The ABC’s of handball are sometimes difficult to teach and that is why senior level coaches rely on others who are specialists in the younger age categories. For Romania, however, there are certain circumstances that make this tournament even more special than others.

First, the host country. Their only gold medal won at the aforementioned IHF Women’s World Youth Championship was secured in North Macedonia. Back then, they finished the preliminary round winning four matches and drawing one, just like in this tournament when they won two matches and drew the one against the Netherlands.

And then, speaking of coaches, there is Aurelian Roșca. He was the mastermind behind the gold medal team eight years ago and returned to the bench this spring after taking some time off from handball.

“I got a call and on the other end of the line, there was a voice asking me to lend a hand. I couldn’t say no and here I am, trying to get the best from this team,” says Roșca.

The 54-year-old coach is one of the most experienced minds in Romanian handball, having served seven different club teams as a head coach, had two different stints as an assistant at Romanian powerhouse Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea and was also the team national youth. coach several times.

In 1999, Roșca led Romania’s women’s national youth team to the W17 EHF EURO gold medal, adding another gold medal at the 2014 World Championship, making him one of the most decorated coaches at this level.

He is also responsible for the development of hundreds of players over the past decades, being respected as one of the best coaches at this level in Romania, who consistently produces a large pool of talent.

However, he shouldn’t have been here, back on the bench. By his own admission, he took a break from handball, which should have been permanent in 2021, when he became a school director in Râmnicu Vâlcea.

But the call of handball was constantly in his mind and he soon returned for a period at Gloria Buzău, in the Romanian League. After only a few months, he resigned and destiny came calling to lead Romania’s women’s national youth team in North Macedonia again.

“This is a very different generation from the previous generation that won the gold medal. We can’t compare these two, because the players are different, the dynamics of the sport are different, almost everything is not the same. We didn’t even play in Skopje then, most of the matches, including the final against Germany, were hosted in Ohrid,” adds Roșca.

Of course, Romania’s chances of advancing from the main round are slim, especially after Roșca’s side blew a four-goal lead against the Netherlands in the last match of the preliminary round, only to stage a strong comeback to earn a point in the a hard- fought 29:29 equal.

This means that wins against Korea Republic and Germany are mandatory in the main round, with those matches shaping up to be even more difficult than the ones Romania played in the preliminary round against Guinea, Slovenia and the Netherlands.

However, Romania are likely to avoid their worst finish in the competition, which was 14th in 2016, as their core team performed admirably. Backs Alicia Boiciuc and Maria Lixăndroiu rank in the top 20 of the scoring rankings after the preliminary round, combining for 41 goals, while Boiciuc is also the second best assister (14 assists).

Alicia Boiciuc

“We definitely need to improve defensively because I’m really not happy with the way the team played in the first few games. The attack was better, but there is room for improvement. I think this team can be better”, concludes Roșca.

While a medal at North Macedonia 2022 could be out of the question, improvement is the key word for a team that won a gold medal, a bronze medal and finished fourth in the competition, with a success rate of reaching the semi-finals of 60. % before this tournament.

With Roșca on the bench and a significant project to work on, anything can happen in the future.

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