Spanish handball is a world of strong contrasts. While the League Asobal struggles to rise from the crash caused by the economic crisis, the selection accumulates successes and thinks big. A year after proclaiming itself European champion, the team led by Jordi Ribera again claims its share of prominence in the World Cup that starts on Thursday with the match between Germany and a unified set of Korea.
Twice he has topped this tournament (2005 and 2013) and the appointment of this January (from 10 to 27) he faces it with as much prudence as ambition. The title also has the extra prize of the classification for the Games, of which it was absent in 2016 (the first time in 40 years), the only blur in recent years of a team that is the great and only international flag , next to Barça, of this sport in Spain. "We are the rival to beat," the president of the Federation, Francisco Blázquez, proclaimed on Wednesday without complexes, in the act of farewell to the national team hours before flying to Munich.
The draw, however, has drawn Hispanics a particularly winding road. They are in the hardest side of the picture, with seven European sets (five in the other part). "We are on the funny side," commented PSR side Viran Morros, laughing. Already in the first phase, will cross the affordable Bahrain (debut this Friday at 20.30) and Japan, and the demanding Croatia, Iceland and Macedonia trained by the Spanish Raul Gonzalez. Barring catastrophe, the pass is very likely, because three are classified, but the number of victories won will be key because the obtained ones are drawn against the teams that also exceed the round.
The trajectory would be definitively steepened in the second phase, since there they would face, on paper, one of the hosts, Germany, and the winner of four of the last five World Cups, France. The Gauls, of course, go without their big star, Nikola Karabatic, named three times the best player in the world and MVP of the tournament of 2017. The two teams won Spain in the European Championship that he lifted a year ago, although with both he also accumulates several disappointments.
Of the six squads that will make up each group in this round, only two will win the ticket for the Hamburg semifinals. In addition to Spain, France and Germany, the other favorites to the title are Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Croatia. The bouquet is wide and the differences, scarce; defined many times by centimeters in a support or hundredths in a release.
All those recruited by Jordi Ribera for the mission Germanic They were part of the European champion team 12 months ago, with the only novelty of Aleix Gómez. The right-winger of Barça, 21, has made the entire journey in the lower categories of Spain (European and world gold in junior) and has surpassed the two screens to stand in his first major championship with the absolute. The rest of his teammates, however, already have many battles in their international service sheet.
Of the 17 players who have traveled (the coach will discard one in each game), nine have 30 or more years. The veteran comes standard in this group: Eduardo Gurbindo, Dani Sarmiento, Julen Aginagalde, Joan Cañellas, Viran Morros … At the head of all of them, the captain, Raúl Entrerríos (37), the only one who survives from First World won in 2005. And among the most recent additions, two names stood out in the 2013 European Championship in Croatia: Ferrán Solé was named best right winger and Álex Dujshebaev, son of a legend like Talant Dujshebaev, best right-handed player. His brother Dani also appears on the campus. The absentees regarding that triumph are Valero Rivera junior, David Balaguer and Arpad Sterbik, the latter called only for the semifinals and final because of the injury of Pérez de Vargas.
The origin of the 17 called says a lot of the moment of Spanish handball, happy with their selections, but melancholy with their League. Only one of them, the pivot Adrià Figueras (Granollers), does not play either in Barcelona or abroad, which gives the measure of the problems that cross the clubs of the middle-high class of the domestic tournament. The impact of the economic crisis in the Asobal created a chasm between the team azulgrana and the rest of their rivals in Spain. Only five compete every week in the league against the six that do in France, the country that all cite as the model to follow to recover the lost glory.
But the Spanish representation in this World Cup is not exhausted in its selection. Up to seven benches, out of the total 28, are run by Spaniards. In addition to Jordi Ribera, Raúl González is in front of Macedonia; David Davis, from Egypt; Mateo Garralda, From Chile; Manolo Cadenas, from Argentina; Valero Rivera, from Qatar; and Toni Gerona, from Tunisia. The last three won the gold in America, Asia and Africa, and, together with the European twist of Spain, results in the four continental champions who play this tournament have the Spanish letterhead. His more tactical game model, to compensate for the basic physical inferiority of the players, has taken root all over the world.