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22.11.2013, 10:43
Play it again, Spain
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ANALYSIS: Following the success at the World Championship on home court, the Spanish national team is eager to win their first EHF EURO gold in Denmark in January
 

Play it again, Spain

The nation that is home to one of the world's best club handball teams is also home to the current world's best national team.

However, while FC Barcelona seem to dominate the Spanish Asobal League at will, the Spanish national team, after having won the World Championship 2013 on home court, will face stiff competition when the EHF EURO 2014 in January in Denmark decides about the continent's best team.

A major change in the team already took place in spring when national team coach Valero Rivera left for Qatar and was succeeded by Manolo Cadenas, who also coaches VELUX EHF Champions League participants Orlen Wisla Plock.

There is little reason to worry as Cadenas is regarded as one of the most skilled coaches in Spain. He has been at the sideline of various clubs since 1986, knows the ins and out of Spanish handball and his players and is furthermore highly respected by his Spanish colleagues.

However, the pressure is high as he is in charge of continuing the successful path on which Rivera had put the Spanish national team.

"It was natural to give Manolo Cadenas the opportunity to train the Spanish team because he is one of the best coaches," says Jorge Dargel, handball correspondent for Spanish newspaper Marca.

"He has done a great job with every team he trained, so he will give more success to Spanish handball."

In the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification matches in April and June this year, Cadenas relied almost solely on the players that formed the Spanish team at the World Championship.

"The pillars of the team will remain the same because they are solid. A feature of the Spanish is that it is a relatively young team," says Francisco Caro, handball commentator for Televisión Española.

Javi Lafuente, handball correspondent at newspaper El País, agrees: "Cadenas will keep the block of players that became is world champions, which is very wise on his part. There is not much to improve and he knows it.

"I think Spain comes in a very good shape to the to the European Championship and team that was overwhelming at the World Championship will be eager to achieve more."

Chances for the son of Spanish handball legend

So while there seem to be little doubts about the team that will take to the court in Denmark in January, the nation's handball experts agree that there is still room for one or the other newcomer - one of them could be Vardar Skopje right back Alex Djushebaev, the son of Talant Dujshebaev.

Alex Dujshebaev was nominated for the two test matches that Spain played against Hungary, one of their opponents in Group B in the preliminary round, at the beginning of November.

"I think Alex will end up being crucial to this team, because he is a very special player and maybe Angel Montoro (FC Barcelona) could be the one who misses out if Alex comes in," says Francisco Caro.

In the past Manolo Cadenas has usually trusted the youth squads of the teams he trained.

For this reason young Spanish players - especially the one's playing in the Spanish junior team - have good chances to make the step to the senior national team on a mid-term base.

"Pablo Cacheda, Niko Mendegía, Alex Djushebaev are destined to become part of the senior national team in the next few years. Manolo loves to test the young ones," says Jorge Dargel

"Everything seems to indicate that Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas (ed. he currently plays for Fenix Toulouse in France) will be the Spanish goalkeeper in the coming years. He will be the third goalkeeper at the EHF EURO," explains Dargel.

"Apart from Alex (Dujshebaev) entering the team, as I'm quite sure that Cadenas will nominate him, I think Raul Entrerríos will play a prominent role in the team, and I also have the impression that Manolo will nominate (Carlos) Ruesga as he knows him very well," says Javi Lafuente.

Francisco Caro generally agrees with his colleagues: "For me the only doubts are on the right back position with Alex (Dujshebaev) and (Angel) Montoro.

"On the left wing Cadenas will face the eternal question of whether Juanin (Garcia) should be in the team. And I also think he will nominate Carlos Ruesga because he is the only player that can score a goal in the last second."

An outlook on the team

So taking the experts' opinions into account, the 16 players that make up the Spanish team in Denmark could be these:

Goalkeepers: Arpad Sterbik, Jose Manuel Sierra, (Gonzalo Perez de Vargas as alternative)

Right back: Viran Morros, Antonio García

Left back: Jorge Maqueda and Alex Djushebaev

Centre back: Joan Canellas, Carlos Ruesga, Dani Sarmiento and Raúl Entrerríos

Line players: Julen Aguinagalde and Gedeón Guardiola

Left wing: Valero Rivera and Cristian Ugalde

Right wing: Albert Rocas and Victor Tomás

However, no matter which player will represent Spain at the EHF EURO, the 'mission gold' will be far from easy.

"It will be very complicated. A European Championship is much harder than a World Championship. At the EHF EURO every mistake could cost you dearly," says Lafuente.

Caro also has a clear opinion when it comes to Spain's chances: "If Spain do not win the European Championship it wouldn't be any failure, but Spain have to be among the top 4 with Denmark, France and Croatia. Reaching the semi-finals is an obligation.

"Winning is more complicated at the European Championship than at the World Cup. The World Championship is special for people who like sports, but for people who understand handball it is fundamental to win the EHF EURO."


TEXT: Adria Barrio / ts
 
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