Spain eliminate Poland with gritty display

18 Jan. 2023

Spain eliminate Poland with gritty display

Co-hosts Poland were eliminated from contention for a quarter-finals berth after Spain delivered their third loss in four matches, 27:23, with an excellent all-round, gritty display. This strong defensive performance helped Jordi Ribera’s side extend their winning streak to four matches in a row.

Main Round Group I

Spain vs Poland 27:23 (16:15)

Co-hosts Poland were playing for their lives at the start of the main round Group I in Krakow, facing a must-win situation against one of the most consistent teams in recent years, Spain. After France’s clear win against Montenegro earlier, a loss would have seen Poland eliminated from contention, as the gap between them and the Group’s top two, France and Spain, would have been six points, with only four points left on the table.

Therefore, the match was crucial. Poland were eager to brush off their disappointing performances in the preliminary round, underlined by the losses against France and Slovenia, which left the co-hosts in a precarious situation.

And for over 30 minutes, Patryk Rombel‚Äôs side really rose to the occasion, delivering an excellent performance on both sides of the ball, with left back Szymon Sińáko in particularly good form, scoring six goals with his first eight shots and keeping Spain in check.

‚ÄúLos Hispanos‚ÄĚ had a clear plan to try and disrupt Poland‚Äôs attack with a 5-1 defence, which did not work as expected, forcing Jordi Ribera to switch to a 6-0 traditional system, which started to yield results in the second half.

While Spain were leading only 16:15 at the break, coach Jordi Ribera changed the goalkeeper, with the lacklustre Rodrigo Corales leaving way to Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas. And the change worked wonders as Barcelona’s captain saved three penalties and got into the minds of Poland’s players, finishing the match with seven saves for a 47% efficiency.

The crucial blow for Poland came between the 33rd and 45th minutes, when Spain managed to contain the co-hosts‚Äô attack, constantly frustrating their main weapons, Sińáko, who was also awarded the hummel Player of the Match Award, and right wing Arkadiusz Moryto. This also enabled Spain to go on a 5:1 run that helped grow the gap to four goals, 21:17, with Poland scoring only twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

This was exactly what hampered Poland in the preliminary round, their lack of urgency in attack, without any proper plan in place to break down the opponents’ defence in hard times, as their efficiency started to dip.

Spain also won the turnover battle, losing only four balls in attack as opposed to Poland‚Äôs 10, which was one more reason for the fate of the co-hosts to be sealed as they really lacked the real firepower when it was needed, no other player than Sińáko really stepping up in crunch time.

But the real reason behind Poland‚Äôs loss was their meagre attacking performance in the second half, in which they could only score eight times. The same symptoms were also displayed in Katowice, as Sińáko and Moryto have now scored 50 of Poland‚Äôs 97 goals in the event, or 51.5% of the total number of goals, with no other player really stepping up to the plate when they were needed the most.

In the end, Spain’s 27:23 win came through their players’ quality and depth, once again proving the cliché that handball is a team sport. While individual performances can tilt the balance, in the long run the better team will always prevail, which is truly the embodiment of Spain’s ethos.

With four wins in a row at Poland/Sweden 2023 and six points in the main round, Spain edged one step closer to the quarter-finals, which will be sealed if they win their next match against Slovenia, another decider for a team coming from Group B of the preliminary round in Krakow.

On the other hand, Poland still have two matches to play against Montenegro and the Islamic Republic of Iran and aim to finish the tournament on a high, despite no longer having mathematical chances of progressing to the quarter-finals, which will be seen as a disappointment.

hummel Player of the Match: Szymon Sińáko (Poland)