FEATURE: The FC Barcelona goalkeeper is one of just four new players head coach Cadenas nominated for Spain's quest to defend their title at the World Championship 2015
Perez de Vargas ready to take on any challenge
"Never change a winning team" looks like a saying which holds true for Spain ahead of the Men’s World Championship 2015 in Qatar.
Two years after the squad lifted the prestigious trophy following their 38:19 win against Denmark in Barcelona on 27 January 2013, a final in which Spain dominated their opponents almost at will, an almost unchanged team has made the voyage to the Qatari capital Doha to defend the title.
Compared to 2013 head coach Manolo Cadenas, who took over from Valero Rivera right after the last World Championship, has only made four changes.
In goal FC Barcelona’s Gonzalo Perez de Vargas replaces the injured Arpad Sterbik, and MKB-MVM Veszprem centre back Chema Rodriguez comes in for Dani Sarmiento from FC Barcelona.
Alex Dujshebaev, the son of the legendary Talant Dujshebaev, will play his first senior’s championship in the Spanish jersey (Angel Montoro is out), and Raul Entrerrios replaces his brother Alberto.
"It is true that there is change of generation, but it is not as radical as it happened in other teams," says Perez de Vargas.
"Alex Djushebaev already played Champions League, and the veterans want to end their career in the Spanish team with good results.
"We have a good mix that has given us very good results in the last five to six years and I think we should continue because we have the World Championship ahead of us, and the subsequent Olympic Games in Rio 2016 are the goal that every athlete has in his mind."
The reigning world champions start their campaign on 16 January against Belarus.
Their remaining opponents in Group A include Slovenia, Brazil, China and hosts Qatar, who are coached Rivera, Spain’s World Championship coach in 2013.
The first four teams of each group make it to the Last 16.
For 24-year-old goalkeeper Perez de Vargas it will be the first World Championship in his career. Just like at the Men’s EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark he forms a duo together with Jose Manuel Sierra from Hungarian side MOL Pick Szeged.
"Playing at a World Championship is what I had always dreamed of," he says.
"In Spain 2013, I was with the team but not among the final nominees, I only participated in the training camps before the tournament.
"However, I enjoyed very beautiful moments already in 2013 and now I want to experience them in Qatar."
Perez de Vargas talent for handball was discovered very early on when he started playing for Amibal in his native town of Toledo.
FC Barcelona signed him when he was just 16 and made his debut in the first team in 2009. However, with goalkeepers like David Barrufet and Danijel Saric ahead of him, his breakthrough was put on hold.
In 2011 he went to BM Granollers where he began to show his full potential. In 2013 he transferred to Toulouse, where he was awarded best rookie of the French league.
Since the beginning of the 2014/15 season he is back at FC Barcelona, sharing the time in goal with the aforementioned Saric.
"You have to have dreams and think that someday you can live only for handball and could be one of the best, but it shouldn’t look like this, because these things not only depend on yourself," he says.
"When I came to Barcelona in 2007, I saw the level they played at and I realised how hard I have to work to get to that level and to be a professional handball player.
"I wanted to play, and every time I played and I did it well, I thought I could reach my goal.
"Five years ago I didn’t think that now I would be with the Spanish Team in a World Championship. I had not planned for anything."
The Spanish squad at the World Championship 2015:
Goalkeepers: Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (FC Barcelona), Jose Manuel Sierra (MOL Pick Szeged)
Left wingers: Cristian Ugalde (MKB-MVM Veszprem), Valero Rivera (HBC Nantes)
Right wingers: Victor Tomas (FC Barcelona), Albert Rocas (Naturhouse La Rioja),
Left backs: Viran Morros (FC Barcelona), Antonio Garcia (MOL Pick Szeged)
Right backs: Jorge Maqueda (HBC Nantes), Alex Dujshebaev (HC Vardar)
Centre backs: Raul Entrerrios (F.C. Barcelona), Chema Rodríguez (MKB-MVM Veszprem), Joan Canellas (THW Kiel)
Line players: Julen Aguinagalde (KS Vive Targi Kielce), Juan Andreu (TSV Hannover), Gedeon Guardiola (Rhein-Neckar Löwen)
TEXT: Adria Barrio / ts
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