Tense end sees Torrevieja wrapped up as Spain down Argentina to book Olympic ticket

12 Apr. 2024

Tense end sees Torrevieja wrapped up as Spain down Argentina to book Olympic ticket

Host nation Spain beat Argentina 26:23 in the second game of day two of the 2024 IHF Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #2 and with it, sealed the fate of all four teams in Torrevieja.

Their narrow win means they are now through to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, taking Netherlands with them, while Czechia and Argentina will now have to wait another four years for another shot at the global event.

Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #2
Argentina vs Spain 23:26 (14:14)

Eduardo Gallardo and his Argentina team knew nothing short of a win would be enough to keep their Paris 2024 dreams alive going into this match, with Czechia also willing the South Americans on to victory to keep their own plans for the 2024 Olympic Games alive too.

And what a performance it was from the South Americans, who had only arrived in Spain the day before competition started.

They battled for every ball and took Spain right until the very end. The were never behind for the entire first half and should have been well in the lead, but a disastrous final minute of the opening 30 saw first Macarena Gandulfo receive a two-minute suspension and then on a restart Martina Romero’s lack of awareness saw her pass to Malena Cavo easily intercepted by Alexandrina Cabral, coming off the bench to bring the two teams equal.

This, combined with a 3:0 scoring run from the home side at the beginning of the second half, adding to their 2:0 at the end of the first, finally put them ahead (17:14, 36th minute).

At this point you could have forgiven Argentina if they capitulated and let the game get away from them, but they did not, instead bringing it back level with just under seven minutes remaining (22:22, 53rd minute).

Spain coach Ambros Martin was apoplectic on the sidelines after watching his side get dragged back to all-square and without Mercedes Castellanos in goal – who replaced starter Darly Zoqbi earlier – he may have seen his side behind.

But the turnovers kept coming from both sides, creating a tense atmosphere inside the Palacio de los Deportes de Torrevieja which certainly the fans of Spain had not expected before.

With over half the players on court playing their club handball in Spain, these two teams knew each other well and it showed. Not an inch was given. Even when Super Amara Bera Bera player Elke Karsten needlessly tangled with club teammate Maitane Echeverria to earn herself a two-minute suspension to curtail Argentina’s comeback (22:23).

Again, the turnovers came but it would come down to London 2012 bronze medallist Marta Lopez to provide the impetus needed to create, finally, the daylight Spain craved.

After Marisol Carratu had made yet another save in the Argentina goal, it was Lopez who reacted first to grab the rebound, eventually setting up the attack once again, which she then converted to make it 24:22 with less than three minutes remaining and, despite some further turnovers and drama, that was enough to see Spain qualify yet again for the Olympic Games from a home Olympic Qualification Tournament, their third after 2012 and 2020.

“I'm so sad because we could win, but I'm really, really proud of my team,” said Argentina’s Elke Karsten to after the game. “We are empty for sure but we fight a lot. We want to always win because it’s in our blood, but in this moment I am just really, really proud of everybody in the national team.”

“Our dreams came true, but we had to fight until the end,” said Spain’s Alexandrina Cabral to “We have to congratulate Argentina because they did a very good job. My dream was to come to Paris and finish my career there, and it's come true.”

hummel Player of the Match: Jennifer Gutierrez (Spain)