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09.08.2016, 10:56
Spain look forward to an "incredible experience"
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PREVIEW: Spain's right Martí Villoria is aware of the challenges that await his team at the Men's 18 EHF EURO in Croatia, however he also believes there hardly anything better than playing at this level
 

Spain look forward to an "incredible experience"

Spain’s under 18 national team has a lot to live up to. On Sunday the nation’s under 20 team won the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2016 in Denmark; the same team had also taken bronze at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2014.

However, the current generation of players born in 1998 or younger has enough self-esteem to think they can live up to the expectations when they enter the court at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2016 in Croatia from 11 to 21 August.

It is their first major outing on the international level. “We are ready to compete on a high level, but we don’t have many references beyond some friendly games,” explains Alberto Suárez. The head coach has more than 20 years of experience on the under 16 and the under 18 national team level and he dreams of returning home with a medal. 

Spain have been drawn to Group A alongside France, Norway and Switzerland. “France are one of the favourites. We will focus on fighting with them for first place of the group and if not, we hope to get to second ahead of Norway,” says right wing Martí Villoria who has already played in the under 16 Spanish national team.

The first two teams from each of the four groups qualify for the main round.

Spain have a lot of new players who have joined the national team for the first time this season. “International games are like another sport. They are much more physical,” says Villoria. “We are fast team but have smaller and lighter players (compared to other nations). You have to change your mentality when you play on the European level.

“If you add up all the weight of our team's players and compare it with any other, there is at least the difference of a truck,” says Suárez. 

"They are still kids"

However, the head coach has enough players in his squad that have shown some promising performances already.

16-year-old right back Mamadou Lamaine is one of the best. “He has all elements to be the new (Luc) Abalo because I believe his future will be on the wing,” says Suárez.

Further key players for Spain are centre back Ian Tarrafeta, who recently overtook Aitor Ariño (FC Barcelona) as the top scorer in Spain’s under 16 history with 82 goals, line player Rolando Urios and goalkeepers Guillen Herns and Kilian Ramirez.

“I asked some older players for advice and they explained to me that playing a EURO is physically very hard but an incredible experience. I’m really excited to be one of the 16 players selected, but this means you are one of the 16 best players in Spain and this means responsibility. We will give all we have,” says Villoria.

Head coach Suárez adds: “These guys aren't men yet, they are still kids. They are 18. It’s a difficult ages and you should be also a dad or a big brother to them. We must play handball, but also show them what it is like to be a professional player with schedules, time to rest and eat.

“Our objectives are to go far as possible in tournaments because this gives more experience to the players but also think about the future and how to turn them into great players,” says Suárez.


TEXT: Laia Coll / ts
 
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