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24.10.2016, 12:07
Ungureanu heads Romania’s "Ministry of Defence"
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EHF EURO Key Players: Paula Ungureanu has played an integral part in every success recorded by Romania’s women’s national team in the past decade and shows no signs of fatigue as the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 approaches
 

Ungureanu heads Romania’s "Ministry of Defence"

It would be easy for Paula Ungureanu to lean back and relax. The goalkeeper was already part of the Romanian team that won silver at the World Championship 2005.

She also stood between the posts when Romania won bronze at the EHF EURO 2010 and the World Championship 2015.

However, her appetite for more has not stopped, and with the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden approaching, she continues to remain an important pillar in the Romanian national team, who is undergoing an extensive makeover – due to retirements and injuries – at the moments.

“We are currently trying to integrate some new, young players into the team. The process is difficult, but it is made easier by experienced players like Paula Ungureanu,” says Costică Buceschi, Romania’s assistant coach.

A constant presence between the best goalkeepers at final tournaments, Ungureanu had a 40 per cent saving percentage at the EHF EURO 2014, placing second only behind Norway’s Silje Solberg (41 per cent).

Motivated by her love for the sport

“I think the attribute that would fit Paula the best is that she is a very, very good organiser in defence, one of the best I ever worked with and played against,” says Buceschi about the 36-year-old who was voted Romania’s “Handball Player of the Year” in 2014 and 2012.

Branded the “Minister of Defence” by Romanian media on several occasions after impressive outings, Ungureanu has enjoyed not only success on the national team level, but also a brilliant club career in which she played for powerhouses like Hypo Niederösterreich, HC Podravka Vegeta and Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea.

Since the beginninf the current season, she plies her trade at current Women’s EHF Champions League title holders, CSM Bucuresti.

“Just glancing at her career stats and what she managed in both club and in the national team, you realise she is something special.”

“She has so much experience, she is so handball-savvy and knows how to organise the defence. I think she is one of the best goalkeepers around and, surely, one of the best goalkeepers in Romanian history. Playing for so long, she learnt how to read the game and the opponents,” says Buceschi.

Motivated by her love for handball, Ungureanu overcame career-threatening knee injuries in order to come back at her best.

In a preliminary round match against Norway at the EHF EURO 2008, the Romanian shot stopper tore her ligaments and took a one-year break in which she also gave birth to her boy, Paul Ioan.

“It is very hard to be away from him, but when I speak about handball, he says “Go, Mum”. I think he will be proud of me in the years to come,” said Ungureanu in 2014.

Her impressive handball brain is completed by a special intuition that has turned Ungureanu into one of the best goalkeepers in 1-on-1 situations.

“Handball has evolved and we can see everything on video after the games. Paula is one of the players that likes to analyse her opponents and knows what to expect from them,” Buceschi says.

Alongside Cristina Neagu, Oana Manea and Eliza Buceschi, Ungureanu will be a cornerstone for the new Romanian national team, that Ambros Martin, the coach who replaced Tomas Ryde in October, will build in the near future.

“I cannot say that Paula has been mentoring a goalkeeper in our national team during the last years. But I did see some things that younger goalkeepers, like Denisa Dedu, have taken on from Paula,” concludes Romania’s assistant coach.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ts
 
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