ArgentinaCoach: Manuel Cadenas
Under the leadership of seasoned coach Manolo Cadenas, Argentina have been steadily improving, winning the gold medal at both the Pan American Championship in 2018 and at the Pan American Games in 2019.
Their 11th place at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt was also a breath of fresh air and a confirmation of the work done for the South American side, who was close to securing their first-ever World Championship quarter-finals berth.
So close, but yet so far for the Argentinian side, who won four games and lost only two at the at Egypt 2021, the first time the South American side had more wins than losses in a Men’s World Championship.
It is a testament of how much Cadenas, the former Spain men’s national team coach and the current coach of Abanca Ademar Leon in the Spanish league, is putting in for the South American side.
Argentina are no longer newcomers among the top sides in the world, with players currently well settled in the Spanish and French championships, including stalwart Diego Simonet, who has long been a staple at Montpellier HB, winning the EHF Champions League Men in 2018 with the French side.
Argentina had one of the most experienced sides at Egypt 2021, with an average age of 29.55 and the core will remain intact for Tokyo 2020, barring any unexpected injury.
However, the bar is set high in Group A, with four European powerhouses leading the way against two South American sides, Argentina and Brazil.
Securing a quarter-final place at Cadenas’ maiden Olympic Games would be a dream come true for Argentina.
“Our aim is clear: we want to win against our rivals, Brazil, and then spring a surprise against one of the favourites of the group. I think the composition of the group speaks volumes. If we had Denmark replacing Norway, it would have been the toughest possible group. It is very difficult, but it is a huge honour to take part in such a competition,” said coach Cadenas to the official website of the Argentinian Handball Federation.
If Argentina are to spring a surprise in this group, they will have to win against the European teams for the first time ever. While they might not have played against Norway in competitive matches yet, the South American side have lost all three games against Spain, all four games against Germany, while France swept Argentina in the seven matches scheduled until Tokyo 2020.
“In Spain, this group is called the group of death. It is a very complicated group, but we are confident and we are eyeing to surprise the favourites,” added Argentina’s captain, 41-year-old Gonzalo Carou, who will be playing at his third Olympics.
A win against Brazil is a must for Argentina, who finished 10th at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
In the past 20 years, the two sides have met seven times in competitive games, with Brazil winning three of those matches, but Argentina have taken the last two wins, including a 25:24 win at the inaugural South and Central American Men’s Handball Championship in January 2020.
Key players: Diego Simonet (centre back), Federico Pizarro (right back), Leonel Maciel (goalkeeper)
Qualification for Tokyo 2020: 2019 Pan American Games – 1st place
History in Olympic Games: 2012: 10th, 2016: 10th
Group at Tokyo 2020: Group A (Norway, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Argentina)