20 Jan. 2019
Despite losing their final placement match against FYR Macedonia earlier today, Chile ended their 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship in 16th spot – their best-ever position at senior level, and with Argentina winning their final match to finish 17th and Brazil, who will finish 12th or higher – their best-ever rank – beating Croatia in the main round too, it would prove to be an important day for South American handball on the global stage.
At the 2015 IHF Men’s World Championship in Qatar, FYR Macedonia finished in the top 10 (9th) with seven players from then in their 16 today, while Chile finished in 23rd with eight of the same players, so what has been the reason for the progression and the move closer to the Europeans? Belief, according to Chile’s Spanish head coach Mateo Garralda.
“Even two years ago we were close to being in the quarter-finals, but we lost to Saudi Arabia,” said Garralda to IHF.info after the match. “The principal progress in those last two years is that the players really believe that, in some opportunities, we have a real opportunity to win – maybe it is only 20% or 50% possibility – but for me that is enough.
“We have to try and give 100% tactically, technically, mentally and in power – everything, to try and win because this is sport and sometimes miracles happen, and we have to try and produce miracles for our dreams.”
After Chile beat Austria (32:24) in their opening match of Germany/Denmark 2019, IHF.info asked if the side could beat their record ranking of 21st and the answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ as they finished inside the top 16 teams.
“I am very proud of my Chilean players because this position, 16th, is really nice, really good,” said Garralda. “But we have to fight, be more concentrated, and be better to become one of the best teams.”
While Garralda and his players will fly back to Chile with fond memories, for one player in particular it was personally a special day as Erwin Feuchtmann was awarded the hummel Best Player of the Match award, after being given a standing ovation from the crowd following the match at the LANXESS arena.
“It is a good feeling (despite losing) because we have now created history for Chilean handball with this best position,” said the former Bundesliga player. “But it is also a weird feeling as we could have won today and, personally, I am very sad because I missed an important seven-metre.
“But I want to say thanks to everybody and thanks to Cologne. They cheered us like we were in Chile and this is something what we did not expect so thank you to everybody.”