Seasoned Curea playing her “hardest season”Article
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INTERVIEW: Plying in her 10th EHF Champions League season, CSM Bucuresti captain Iulia Curea knows what it takes for a team be successful in the decisive phase of the competition
»2018-19 Women's News

Seasoned Curea playing her “hardest season”

Experience could be the difference between winners and losers in the business end of the Women’s EHF Champions League. History underlines that inexperienced teams that have fared well in the early stages of the season tend to fade later on.

Momentum is also key, but boasting a veteran core is of the utmost importance. This is why CSM Bucuresti are seen as dangerous underdogs as their roster’s average age of 28.9 years was the highest at the start of the competition.

Team captain Iulia Curea is in her 10th season in the Women’s EHF Champions League and knows a thing or two about do-or-die matches and difficult situations.

After all, in her seasoned career, the 37-year-old Curea has won a title, in 2016 with CSM, and lost a final, in 2010 with Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea. You are one of the veterans of the competition and played in the Women’s EHF Champions League in 10 of the past 12 seasons. How do you feel right now?

Iulia Curea: Well, I can only say I am proud to be so consistent and play at a high level for so many years. This competition brings together the best of the best and having such longevity means I am doing things quite well. Things are not easy, but we are doing our best to stay optimistic. You have scored 189 goals up until now. Do you expect to reach the 200 mark this season?

Iulia Curea: One can only hope so! I did not know that I have scored this number of goals, but I will surely try to hit 200 before this season ends. Therefore, I also have a personal target now to beat Metz and improve my chances. What is your most cherished moment in the competition?

Iulia Curea: This is easy: winning the Women’s EHF Champions League in 2016 was superb! Not only the feeling of being the best, but the circumstances were special. We were not given a chance to go that far. We had a pretty bad season up until the final weekend in Budapest. We were true underdogs, but we stayed true to our hearts and gave everything on the court. And miracles can happen. It was a superb feeling, one I can only hope to replicate again. Is being the underdogs the situation in which CSM thrive?

Iulia Curea: I personally look back and remember with joy the moments we won the trophy, but there are not a lot of players remaining from that team. I was thinking about that win to try and motivate myself for the game against Metz, as they must be the favourites before the first whistle. Miracles can happen and that is the mindset we are trying to take into this quarter-final.~ We talked about your experience, is this the hardest season ever to play in?

Iulia Curea: For sure. The hardest since I have been at CSM, for six years. Of course, there were changes, but nobody could have predicted that Cristina Neagu and Amanda Kurtovic would get injured and have their season ended. There are also other players who are playing through injuries at this stage of the season and this can only harden the burden. But this also means we must be tougher and eliminate all the mistakes from our game. Last season, you eliminated Metz in the quarter-finals. Could it happen again?

Iulia Curea: It is a totally different situation. We were favourites last season, irrespective of us finishing third in the main round. Now they are one of the teams to beat and have a very good defence. But we will try our best and maybe our experience in this kind of situation can tilt the balance a little if we play better. What would it mean for you to play once again in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4?

Iulia Curea: Another dream come true. We have a thick skin now, after three years in which we went there and won one title, coming from behind nearly every time. This would be special, however, with all the struggles we had this season. You will be 38 next year, how long are you planning to play?

Iulia Curea: I have signed a one-year extension with the club, but next season will probably be my last one. And then, just maybe, I can retire with three Women’s EHF Champions League trophies under my belt (laughs).

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew