Spain juggle through retirements and comebacks
15 Nov. 2022
Spain have been one of the most consistent teams in the world of handball over the last decade, having won the IHF Men’s World Championship in 2013 and the EHF EURO twice, in 2012 and 2018.
Adding to those achievements, ‘Los Hispanos’ also secured bronze at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship, the silver medal at the Men’s EHF EUROs in 2016 and 2022, bronze at the EHF EURO 2014 and another bronze medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
That consistency has been key to them retaining a favourite status for all the tournaments in which they participate. It is also thanks to the stability in the squad, with Jordi Ribera leading Spain since 2016 and having recently extended his contract until the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
However, the golden generation of Los Hispanos saw some players retiring, including captain Raul Entrerrios –the most-capped player in the team’s history with 294 international matches – as Egypt 2021 was his last-ever IHF World Championship.
Stalwarts like Viran Morros, Daniel Sarmiento or Julen Aguinagalde also bid farewell to the Spain men’s national team, as Jordi Ribera was left with a juggling act between keeping the core of the team intact and ushering in new talent for the next major tournaments.
Sure, Spain have plenty of potential at their disposal, having recently won the gold medals at the M20 EHF EURO 2022 and the M18 EHF EURO 2022, where Ribera was also present to take notes and see what the future holds for his team. Still, it is likely that no player will make the big step to the senior team, as the plan put in place by Ribera is to usher in the new talents carefully.
Therefore, there will be no significant changes in the squad for Poland/Sweden 2023, where Spain aim to win their fourth medal in the eight IHF Men’s World Championship editions since 2011.
Los Hispanos have never finished lower than seventh place in the past five editions of the competition. Ribera will likely eye more of the same Poland/Sweden 2023, with Spain being overwhelming favourites in the group phase, where they face Montenegro, Chile and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Crunch clashes are likely to follow in the main round, where Los Hispanos might meet France, co-hosts Poland and Slovenia, in what could become the decisive point in the competition for them.
In the last two official games before the start of Poland/Sweden 2023, Spain featured in the EHF EURO Cup, where they lost against Denmark 31:39 and won against Germany 32:31, with Ribera offering more minutes to players who have not featured that prominently for Los Hispanos in the past few years.
However, the return of right back Alex Dujshebaev and left back Daniel Dujshebaev, who both missed the EHF EURO 2022 due to injuries, will bring more solutions for Ribera in the back line, where Spain miss Entrerrios and Sarmiento from the past tournaments.
Coach: Jordi Ribera
Key players: Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (goalkeeper), Alex Dujshebaev (right back), Aleix Gomez (right wing)
Qualification for Poland/Sweden 2023: Men’s EHF EURO 2022 – 2nd place
History in tournament: 1958: 12th, 1974: 13th, 1978: 10th, 1982: 8th, 1986: 5th, 1990: 5th, 1993: 5th, 1995: 11th, 1997: 5th, 1999: 4th, 2001: 5th, 2003: 4th, 2005: Winners, 2007: 7th, 2009: 13th, 2011: 3rd, 2013: 1st, 2015: 4th, 2017: 5th, 2019: 7th, 2021: 3rd
Group at Poland/Sweden 2023: Group A (Spain, Montenegro, Chile, Islamic Republic of Iran)