A new dawn and a new coach for ambitious Spain

17 Nov. 2023

A new dawn and a new coach for ambitious Spain

After claiming second place at the 2019 IHF Women's World Championship in Japan, Spain had high hopes for the 2021 IHF World Championship on home ground. They got the first blow in the semi-final against winners Norway, with the second one following only two days later in the bronze-medal match, where they lost against a strong Denmark outing. 

While “Las Guerreras” shone at the last two World Championships, the last two European Championships were rather a disappointment, seeing them both times finishing ninth. Also, the road to the upcoming World Championship had been rough, as Austria turned out to be a tough opponent during the European Qualification Phase. While the first match ended in a 28:28 tie it was thanks to a good last quarter which lifted them past Austria with a two-goal victory to book their ticket to Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, with a 54:52 aggregate win. 

José Prades was responsible as head coach for the Spanish national team from 2021 to 2023, but stepped back and will continue as an assistant coach again as the Spanish handball federation announced the high-experienced Ambros Martín as the new head coach in May 2023. 

Martín is a well-known name in the women’s handball world, as he has been a successful coach for Hungarian club Gyori Audi ETO KC, winning the Champions League in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018. He has also collected experiences as a national coach for Hungary (2016), Romania (2016-2019) and the Russian Federation (2019-2020). 

There is only one thing on his plate he hasn’t achieved before, neither as a player nor coach: participating in the Olympic Games. The 2023 IHF Women's World Championship will therefore be one of the most important steps on that road. He already gathered the team three times, testing two times against Romania with the outcome of a tie and a loss in July. However, the most important thing at those matches was that he gained the impression of a team with the rightful spirit on the court.  

In the long run, his mission is to improve the Spanish team and be able to join the circle of the best teams and not only to cause a surprise now and then at a major tournament.  

“Las Guerreras” are a good mixture of young and older players. The 44-year-old goalkeeper Silvia Navarro still had been a part of the team during the EHF EURO 2022 but was replaced by young Nicole Wiggins after the preliminary round. Since Martín took over Navarro hasn’t been nominated for the team. 

Alongside the highly experienced Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa, young Paula Arcos, who now plays in Vipers Kristiansand, proved her qualities during the EHF EURO 2022, ending up as third best scorer for her team. She scored as many goals as left wing Jennifer Gutíerrez who also played an important role in winning the matches against Austria. 

They can also rely on their pivots, having an internationally experienced duo on the club level. Kaba Gassama plays for the German club SG BBM Bietigheim and Lysa Tchaptchet who already won the Champions League with Norwegian club Vipers Kristiansand. 

At Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, they will play the preliminary round in Frederikshavn in Denmark. In Group G they’ll meet Kazakhstan in their opening match. In their second game, they will face the Ukraine with the possibility to set everything up for the group final against Brazil who finished sixth at the 2021 IHF Women's World Championship.

Key players: Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa (left back), Paula Arcos (left back), Jennifer Gutíerrez (left wing)

Qualification for DEN/NOR/SWE 2023: European qualification Phase 2 – Winners versus Austria (54:52 on aggregate)

History in tournament: 1993: 15th, 2001: 10th, 2003: 5th, 2007: 10th, 2009: 4th, 2011: 3rd, 2013: 9th, 2015: 12th, 2017: 11th, 2019: 2nd, 2021: 4th

Group at DEN/NOR/SWE 2023: Group G (Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, Kazakhstan)