Puerto RicoCoach: Camilo Estevez
Six years after their debut at the IHF Women's World Championship, Puerto Rico are once again among the tournament participants, and their primary goal is to prove that they belong to this level.
In 2015, the Caribbean team won only one of seven matches at the event, against Kazakhstan, and finished 20th. The tournament in Denmark was sometimes a harsh lesson for the Puerto Ricans, who lost by more than 25 goals in each of the games against European sides Romania, Norway, Russia and Spain, as well as against Japan.
However, it helped them gain experience, and since then, the team coached by Camilo Estevez have enjoyed some success at the international arena. Twice, in 2017 and 2021, Puerto Rico became the winners of the North America and the Caribbean Championship, and in 2019, they were runners-up at the same tournament.
The triumph in Elgin, United States of America, in August 2021, where Puerto Rico defeated Greenland in the final (34:24) secured them a spot at the World Championship.
Four players of the team – right wing Jailene Maldonado, centre back Nathanys Ceballos (who scored 10 goals against Greenland), left back Zuleika Fuentes and line player Ivana Holm – were included into the All-star Team of the tournament, while experienced left back Sheila Hiraldo was elected the MVP of the competition.
Maldonado, Ceballos, Fuentes and Hiraldo have already participated in the World Championship six years ago and all these players should also play important roles in Spain, where Puerto Rico will play in Group D alongside the Netherlands, Sweden and Uzbekistan.
While it will be hard to compete with both of the European teams, Puerto Rico are generally expected to compete with Uzbekistan for the third position in the group, which will secure promotion to the main round.
Over the last few years, some of the Puerto Rican players have developed their club careers in Europe. More precisely, Maldonado, Hiraldo and line player Ciris Garcia currently play for Spanish clubs, and their experience should be an asset for the national team. Most of the players still represent Puerto Rican clubs, though, but a big tournament like the World Championship is a good chance to show their quality.
Key players: Sheila Hiraldo (left back), Ciris Garcia (line player), Nathanys Ceballos (centre back)
Qualification for Spain 2021: 2021 Women’s North America and the Caribbean Championship – Winners
History in tournament: 2015: 20th
Group at Spain 2021: Group D (Netherlands, Sweden, Puerto Rico, Uzbekistan)