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22.11.2016, 16:18
The Guerreras amid a transitional phase heading to Sweden
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TEAM CHECK SPAIN: With some of the old guard departing, Spain look to mix some new blood with their tried and tested favourites at the Women's EHF EURO
 

The Guerreras amid a transitional phase heading to Sweden

The Spaniards are the current runners-up in Europe after almost touching glory two years ago in Hungary when they collected silver. It is always difficult to reach a medal finishing position at an EHF EURO event, but the Guerreras have a never-say-die attitude.

After being eliminated at Olympic Games in the quarter-finals and in the Last 16 at the World Championship one year ago, Spain will go to Sweden fighting for every last minute. It’s difficult to predict what they can do at this championship because Spain are in a witnessing a shift in the handball generations, and even though they are doing it slowly, the big renovation will be complete in the next main event.

Spain traditionally never had any big ‘stars’, which could carry a team, but they have a great weapon: their warrior (guerrera) spirit. And as they have shown before, this can be enough to beat most opponents.

The roster

18 players have been selected by Jorge Duenas to play in the ‘Spanish International Tournament’ next week against Poland, Argentina and Japan -- the last test before the trip to Sweden. In the squad there are 13 of the 15 players who were in Rio this summer. The national team coach will discard two players after these matches and it looks like there aren’t going to be any big surprises with Duenas continuing along conservative lines.

The biggest absence will be the left wing Eli Pinedo; Spain will miss her quality and her character because she was one of the big voices in the changing room.

Patricia Elorza (left back) is out with an injury and they will also miss an important player in Bea Fernandez who retired at the end of the last season.

The attack

Spain have experienced attacking power with a lot of international game time: Naiara Egozkue, Marta Mangue, Macarena Aguilar, Eli Chavez, Nerea Pena and Carmen Martin. If all of them are in a good form and everything works well, Spain can give any team a game with these players. Also, Spain have Alexandrina Barbosa who can provide the team with long distance shots, a characteristic that the Spanish game has always been missing. Along with Barbosa’s goals, further ones from Carmen Martin will also be essential for the Spaniards.

In a championship like an EHF EURO -- a lot of matches and huge concentration levels required -- the bench will be essential.

The defence

The defensive axis will be made up of Lara Gonzalez and Eli Chavez. The most difficult thing to replace will be Patricia Elorza (injured) in defence because Duenas used her before with good results.

The Spanish team is not very tall and thus they need to be more aggressive in defence. One strength for Spain is in goal with Silvia Navarro; Darly Zoqbi will pair up with Navarro in goal and she has shown in past tournaments that she can do a good job there as well. It would be a big surprise if Ana Temprano makes the cut for the EURO as she was in Hungary two years ago, but was out of the team at Olympic Games and the last World Championship. 

The coach

Jorge Duenas took over the Spanish national team in 2007 and is by far the coach with most internationals (209 games). The most successful years for Spain were with him: 2 silver medals at the EHF EURO (Macedonia 2008 and Hungary and Croatia 2014), a bronze medal at the World Championship (Brazil 2011) and another bronze medal at the Olympics (London 2012).

However, after the bad results at the World Championship and in Rio, there are doubts about him. The Real Federacion Espanola De Balonmano (Spanish federation) gave him a vote of confidence, but if he comes back with bad results, his period with of the national team could well be over. 

Outlook

Spain should make it to the main round if all goes well and they will look to take as many points with them as possible because they could cross the likes of strong teams like France and the Netherlands.

Considering that they are currently in a stage of transition, going back home with a medal would be an excellent result for Spain and finishing between the 5th and 6th position should be considered a good result. Less than that could produce changes in and around the team.

But as we have noted before, should they overcome the change of the old guard and play with confidence with the old players, they could indeed cause a few upsets. 

The 18 players (to be reduced to 16) nominated by Spain for the Women's EHF EURO 2016

Goalkeepers: Silvia Navarro, Darly Zoqbi de Paula and Ana Temprano

Left wings: Amaia Gonzalez and Naiara Egozkue

Left backs: Nely Carla Alberto, Lara Gonzalez and Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa

Centre backs: Macarena Aguilar, Marta Mangue and Nerea Pena

Right backs: Mireya Gonzalez and Almudena Rodriguez

Right wings: Marta Lopez and Carmen Martin

Line players: Elisabet Chavez, Judith Sans Serra and Ainhoa Hernandez Serrador


TEXT: Laia Coll / bc / ts
 
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