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20.11.2015, 10:50
Dragon’s Den receives a modern Iberian battle
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FEATURE: The relationship between Portugal and Spain has had its ups and downs throughout history and their centuries-old rivalry continues - on the handball court
 

Dragon’s Den receives a modern Iberian battle

The relationship between Portugal and Spain has had its ups and downs throughout history and in 2015, without any major geographical or political conflicts, the two countries along the Iberian Peninsula continue their centuries-old rivalry – but this time it will be sport and handball in particular.

Tomorrow (Saturday 21 November) Portuguese side FC Porto and Spanish powerhouse Naturhouse La Rioja will play in their second modern Iberian duel in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season after the first one back in September in Logrono, Spain. In that match, Porto lost by seven goals (30:23) and will be out for revenge on home soil.

Ricardo Costa and Jesús González, coaches of the Portuguese and Spanish teams respectively, spoke to ehfcl.com about the game and gave their opinion on the Iberian rivalry.

“There’s some sporting rivalry,” said Costa ahead of the game, and in mind games akin to that of his footballing counterpart, Jose Mourinho, was quick to cast doubt on his opponents. “Spanish handball has dropped [in standard] dramatically over the past five years, except for FC Barcelona who are clearly above all the other teams in the Iberian Peninsula.”

His opposite number, Jesús González is quick to point out that history shows a Spanish superiority in handball and notes that Spanish players have reached the very top of the handball world.

“The ASOBAL League has long been one of the world's best handball leagues,” he said. “It has helped the Spanish players compete at the highest level."

Both coaches are in agreement about something though; that Portuguese handball has improved considerably over recent years, but Costa wants more.

“As a country we need more teams in the VELUX EHF Champions League,” he said. “Plus, we need to have the national team in the major European and world competitions.”

All set for Saturday’s duel

Reaching the next stage of the competition is the primary goal of both teams, rivalries aside, and at the moment the Spanish team lead their group.

However, FC Porto are undefeated at home and aim to fight for a top-two finish in the group.

"I don't see weaknesses at FC Porto,” said González. “As with other teams, there are times when things don't run so well but their coach exploits the strengths of the players well and they have a very strong defence."

González also highlights the quality players of the team including left back Gilberto Duarte.

"He's a total player,” said González. “He’s a good striker, can defend in any position and is very versatile.”

Despite Saturday's game taking place in the Dragao Caixa (Dragon’s Den) in Porto, their coach Ricardo Costa believes it will be a tough encounter.

“The game is absolutely decisive about deciding who progress through to the next round,” said Costa about what he believes to be one of the strongest opponents in Group C.

"La Rioja has a good collective game and players with tactical quality. We are thrilled to be able to play against a team like La Rioja in front of our own fans.”
 


TEXT: Filipa Sousa / AMC
 
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