07 Aug. 2019
At 3:30am on Tuesday (6 August) morning in Skopje, North Macedonia, Argentina's senior men’s team threw-off their gold medal match against Chile at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
By 5:30am, they had beaten their neighbours, secured gold, and booked a direct ticket to the men’s handball competition of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan.
And in further success for the handball men of the South American country, at 10:15pm the same day, their U19 men’s team had overcome the hosts of the 2019 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship - North Macedonia - 23:20, after coming back from a five-goal deficit.
“It made us very proud,” said Argentina captain Ariel Agustin Iglesias to IHF.info about the senior team’s success in the early hours of the morning of their opening match and if it inspired them. “Our coaches told us to go sleep, and not to follow the game as we had a big matchday, but when we woke up they gave us the news and we were so happy.
“The fact that Argentina will be at their third Olympic Games in a row is something we have to be proud of.”
Despite North Macedonia making their debut at this level and not appearing at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO last year, Argentina went into the game knowing it would be a tough test for them with a team featuring experienced club players, plus the passionate, vociferous home fans, and they found themselves down by five (16:11) going into the last 20 minutes and the game seemingly lost.
But Iglesias revealed that the booing and whistling of his side acted as a positive force for his side, and, along with his side, he was left with strong feelings at the final buzzer after their comeback.
“Happiness and exaltation,” said Iglesias about his feelings at having won their first match. “It feels like all the work we have done showed results - we had a great match.
“My personal thoughts were that both teams had the same level," he continued. "In the game we were four, five goals behind, but in our play it didn’t feel like that, I always felt like in the second half we had to be cool and we did what we did.
“At half-time we talked about how to fix some things in defence and also attack, and how we needed to work the goalkeeper on the sides but all the noise (from the crowd) gave us motivation and that was a good thing for us.”
Next up for Argentina is a clash against Denmark on Thursday (8 August), with the Danes, historically, the best nation at this global level, having won three previous editions of the event.
“We know all about Denmark’s history, and that they were third in the EURO last year,” said the line player who plays his club handball for VILO. “We know they are a really good team, but I think after the North Macedonia victory we are more relaxed.
“That performance will be good for us going into the match against Denmark – they are a good team but if we play our handball we can make a really good match.”
As captain for his team, Iglesias explained his extra responsibilities on and off court, but was quick to state it is not just a one-way relationship.
“Personally, I like to be in touch with everyone, to know what is happening to every one of the players,” said Iglesias about wearing the captain’s armband. “On court, I am always talking, always giving motivation or education and I try to be behind the players and support them, but this also helps and motivates me too because of what they are doing on the court.”
And what does the captain think his team can do in Skopje?
“The first thing is to enjoy and play our handball in the tournament,” said the 19-year-old. “But we are looking towards the next stage, to get to the eighth-finals.”
Photo: WCH 2019 / Filip Viranovski