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13.01.2016, 19:04
Spain: looking for the first gold
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #15: The Spain national team arrives in Poland with the goal of winning the crown for the first time. They have won three silver and two bronze medals but never became champions
 

Spain: looking for the first gold

The Spain national team arrives in Poland with the goal of winning the crown for the first time. They have won three silver and two bronze medals but never became champions

If the chance arises, Spain will also hope for revenge against France in particular – Les Bleus eliminated the Spanish team in the last EHF EURO in the semi-final stage and in the same round at the IHF World Championship 2015.

The team’s strength

The long-standing players that make Spain one of the best teams in the world and the new generation coming through could be the perfect fusion required to reach the top of Europe’s ranks.

The goalkeepers are the stand-out aspect of this team. Spain coach Manolo Cadenas included three in his provisional squad, but will have to let one keeper go to finalise the list of 16. Of Arpad Sterbik, Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and Rodrigo Corrales, Corrales is most likely to miss the cut when Cadenas makes his decision on Thursday.

Another of the Hispanos’ strengths is their ability to think and play together, with an experienced squad who have been on court together for years. This strength is also their downfall however, as the quality of overall play can be affected by an individual.

But with several exciting youngsters moving through the ranks, who are already perfectly adapted to the team, Spain are not likely to encounter such an obstacle. This EHF EURO could serve as the trampoline to launch up-and-coming stars like Alex Dujshebaev, Juan Del Arco Perez and Niko Mindegia Elizaga.

The team’s weakness

The main disadvantage is always the same: Spain is not a strong or tall side, but this is one of the fixed characteristics of Spanish handball, and the team’s success shows they have found a way around any physical barriers that may exist.

Additionally, most of the Spain players are spread throughout the most important European leagues, and therefore play a very different kind of game with their clubs – including Cadenas, who coaches Polish team Orlen Wisla Plock – and have to quickly readapt to a different handball style when they come together.

Pressure is also an enemy, because the Spaniards are always expected to be one of the top teams, but since winning the IHF World Championship 2013 in Barcelona they have not had a major result. Spain were eliminated in the EHF EURO 2014 Semi-final against France, as well as in the last IHF World Championship, in 2015. France are therefore a nightmare for the Spaniards, and they could face the challenge of Les Bleus again if both make it to the business end of the competition.

The team’s star

The Spanish team is not led by a star, but is guided by two key players in the centre back: Joan Canellas and Raul Entrerrios. THW Kiel star Canellas was one of the best players at Qatar 2015, while Entrerrios won the VELUX EHF Champions League last season with FC Barcelona, where he is also a key player.

Goalkeeper is one of the most hotly-contested positions in the Spain team, with the experience of Arpad Sterbik, and the quality of Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and Rodrigo Corrales keeping the Spanish goal the most secure it has been for a long time.

Defensive specialist Viran Morros is also key for Spain. Though Morros is physically different than what might be expected from a good defender, he is the best on the team and is a solid leader at Spain’s end of the court.

The team’s hidden gem

All the Spain team play for top European clubs apart from Juan del Arco, who may not be the tallest player on the field but is a threatening outside shooter. This summer the left back signed for El Jaish in Qatar after spending six seasons with Fraikin BM. Granollers. Del Arco only debuted in the national team last June, but Cadenas now counts on the 24-year-old for the EHF EURO.

Last season del Arco was one of the best players for Granollers and this year stepped up to become a leader in the Catalan team. But after a surprising announcement at the end of the summer, del Arco joined El Jaish. Though the Qatar league is less competitive than Asobal league, the Spanish player has nevertheless increased his quality and earned his place on the national team.

The outlook

Spain should qualify for the main round, but it will require their utmost concentration from the first moment because Germany, Sweden and Slovenia all have the ability to surprise them.

Cadenas has already told the EFE Spanish press agency that Spain “only think to win the gold medal”, and while it will certainly not be an easy road, the EHF EURO 2016 could be the last chance for several players in the team.

This is the time for Spain to win their first EHF EURO, and they are ready.


TEXT: Adria Barrio / cg
 
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