by Simon Daish
Romania’s class was apparent throughout the lead up to the final, claiming 3-0 victories in all but one encounter in Nantes beating the Slovak Republic, Spain, France and Poland to return to the gold medal contest for the second European Championships in a row.
Providing the opposition at the final hurdle, Portugal caused a major upset in the quarter-finals with their elimination of the mighty Germany before condemning Hungary to the same fate one round later.
The stage was set for an exciting final for all in the Salle Sportive Métropolitaine to enjoy. Romania were aiming for a fifth such success, Portugal was searching for a first. But, only one could prevail!
Spectators were treated to a thrilling opening match as Bernadette Szocs and Shao Jieni stepped up for Romania and Portugal respectively: recovering from a slow start Shao looked to be closing in on a shock win with a two games to one lead to her name, but Szocs pulled off a comeback of her own (11-7, 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6) to put her team in front.
“I was focused; I know how dangerous she is. There was no room for mistakes.” Bernadette Szocs.
A tight match opener and the margins were just as narrow in the second fixture of contest: on paper Fu Yu, ranked over 70 positions above her opponent, entered her meeting with Daniela Monteiro Dodean as favourite to make it over the line. However, against the odds it was the latter player who emerged victorious across five games (7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 11-3), moving Romania into a dominant 2-0 advantage.
“I felt very confident. My game was at the highest level. Even when I was down, I didn’t feel she could close the gap.” Daniela Monteiro Dodean
Two matches down, the pressure was beginning to mount on Portugal with no more room for error. Leila Oliveira gave it her all in an attempt to keep her country in the match, but to no avail as Elizabeta Samara chalked up a straight games win (11-9, 11-7, 11-6) to capture the title 3-0.
“I felt the pressure just from the thought that Dana and Bernie did a great job and that I could not allow any mistakes in my duel. I had to finish that match. We have a fantastic team that deserved the victory.” Elizabeta Samara
Successfully earning the women’s team crown for the second successive European Championships, there is little doubt to express – Romania are surely now the leading force on the continent!
Very few European teams can boast a trio of players in the same league as the Romanian line-up of Bernadette Szocs, Elizabeta Samara and Daniela Monteiro Dodean and with an exciting wealth of young talent coming up through the ranks, the question will be whether this team can go on to dominate for years to come.