Five talking points after the main round

C4 9374 EHF / Courtney Gahan

The Women's EHF EURO 2022 main round has come to an end and we are all set for the final weekend, with France, Norway, Montenegro and Denmark to battle for the trophy in Ljubljana.

It’s time to look at some highlights of this stage of the competition. I (EHF EURO newsletter journalist Courtney Gahan) have been covering all the action in Ljubljana throughout the main round, but have followed all the excitement in Skopje closely as well — especially Cristina Neagu’s two new records.

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Three semi-finalists return

Three of the semi-finalists at the EHF EURO 2022 are the same as 2020: defending title holders Norway, runners-up France and fourth-placed Denmark.

Those three teams also played the 2021 World Championship semi-finals, taking the three medals in the same order as above: gold for Norway, silver for France and bronze for Denmark.

At the EHF EURO 2020, Norway met Denmark in the semi-final, while France played Croatia. This time around, we will see Denmark play Montenegro in the semi-final, and Norway meet France in a rematch of several big games over the last years — the World Championship finals in 2021 (won by Norway) and 2017 (France), the EHF EURO 2020 final (Norway), and the EHF EURO 2016 semi-final (Norway).

Denmark and Montenegro have nowhere near the same history against each other. The most high profile match was the 2013 World Championship Last 16.

While I always enjoy seeing new teams in the finals (Hello, Croatia!), it is equally amazing to see the likes of Norway and France return to the top again and again. It’s great to see Montenegro back in the semis for the first time since 2014, but I’m most excited to see what Denmark can accomplish — after their victory over Norway to end the preliminary round, which ended a run of 17 EHF EURO wins for Norway, it really looks like Denmark are ready to end their long title drought.

Neagu breaks all-time record AND passes 300

At the start of the EHF EURO 2022, I hoped we would see Cristina Neagu crack 300 goals. She started as the all-time top scorer of the competition with 264 and reached 282 by the end of the preliminary round, so it looked promising. And in Romania’s last main round match, she did it with this penalty goal.



Prior to that, Neagu passed Iceland wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson as the all-time top scorer across both competitions and we reached out to Sigurdsson for a comment:

“Dear Cristina, congratulations on your record. Finally, finally, I have been passed by you. I have huge respect for your performance, it proves you have been on top level for many years and that you are constantly on this level. Personally, I am absolutely delighted for you. It is a huge joy for me, as I know how hard you have to work to reach this milestone. Enjoy the record.”

Having spoken with Sigurdsson many times as I covered Iceland’s groups at his last EURO, it does not surprise me at all that Sigurdsson had such kind words for Neagu, but it is still great to see this respect from a (former) male player to a female player.

Grijseels leads scorer race — but not for long

Germany centre back Alina Grijseels is the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2022 after the main round, with 44 goals. She is followed by Neagu in second (39 goals) and Hungary’s Katrin Klujber on 38. Grijseels has shot at a very high 71 per cent accuracy. For comparison, Neagu recorded 55.7 per cent and Klujber at 51.4 per cent.

With all three of these players out of the competition, we have to look at the hunters — who is still in the competition with a chance to take the top scorer crown?

Closest is Norway’s Henny Reistad, with 38 goals. Montenegro’s Djurdjina Jaukovic is close behind, on 35, followed by three players that will contest the final weekend on 34: Norway’s Nora Mørk, Montenegro’s Jovanka Radicevic and Sweden’s Nathalie Hagman, who will play for fifth.

Mørk was the top scorer at both the EHF EURO 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while Hagman was top scorer at the 2021 World Championship.

The truth is that no player really cares about this award unless they win the trophy and get to celebrate the individual achievement as a bonus — any top scorer I have every talked to would trade it for the trophy no question. But it’s interesting for us!

The records of Mørk and Hagman are very impressive, with those two showing such consistency as two of the best shooters in handball, but it’s exciting to see Reistad and Jaukovic up there, as neither of them have ever taken this individual award in any open-age competition.

Slovenia’s legacy after record crowd numbers

One EHF EURO 2022 co-host bowed out in the preliminary round (North Macedonia), one will play the final weekend (Montenegro) and one was eliminated on the last day of main round games: Slovenia.

Slovenia had such a strong campaign and it was sad to see their chance to play the final weekend gone after the first game of the day, as they were defeated by Hungary.

But what a legacy this tournament has left for Slovenian women’s handball, and what a championship it has been for the team. Slovenia found a new face during this EHF EURO, as they showed more consistency in their game, challenged Norway to the closest match between the two in almost 20 years, and stayed in the semi-final race right to the end of their main round campaign. I expect to see their new level continue at the next events.

Aside from the performance, the experience meant a lot to the players. The spectator numbers set a new record for the women’s national team. As Nina Zulic said to me after the game against Norway:

“This is the great experience of my life. It’s so emotional and I am maybe living the life that I wanted when I was small. I was never thinking, ‘you will play the championship at home and it will be like that.’ It’s really emotional for me and I would say to my mini-me, ‘I’m proud of you and you go girl.’”

Time to vote for the All-star Team

The vote for the All-star Team is open! 12 nations are represented among the 48 nominees and several players who were part of the 2020 line-up have a chance to be named in the final selection again: goalkeeper Sandra Toft, Norway backs Stine Oftedal and Mørk, and Croatia’s Ana Debelic as best defender.

Mørk and Neagu both have the chance to be named for the fourth time in their careers.

Have your say and vote on the Home of Handball app, available for iOS and Android. Voting closes on Saturday at 23:59 CET and the team will be announced on Sunday before the finals.

Here are my personal picks for the EHF EURO 2022 All-star Team:

  • Goalkeeper: Sandra Toft, Denmark
  • Right wing: Jovanka Radicevic, Montenegro
  • Right back: Katrin Klujber, Hungary
  • Centre back: Grace Zaadi, France
  • Left back: Cristina Neagu, Romania
  • Left wing: Emma Friis, Denmark
  • Line player: Linn Blohm, Sweden
  • Best defender: Kathrine Heindahl, Denmark

I struggled most with the positions of goalkeeper, where I find it hard to go past France’s Cleopatre Darleux but have to go with Toft, left back — Henny Reistad has been so decisive as well, and centre back — very difficult! But I give the edge to Zaadi for her general leadership of the team. She is so important in France’s success.

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