The renewed Spanish team seeks to vindicate itself in the appointment that begins today in Torrevieja
The Women’s Handball World Cup opens today, with the host team, Spain, determined to return to the path on which it walked in the previous World Cup event, where the Guerreras hung a deserved silver. But in between, the Spanish had the Tokyo Olympics, a second visit to Japan in which they did not fare as well as in the World Cup. Bad feelings and bad results that got them out of the fight with the best. Despite the precedent on this occasion, with the first-time coach, José Ignacio Prades, and the entry of new blood, albeit in a controlled way, the Guerreras want to wage war, much war. They play at home and feel able to once again amaze the world of handball.
To do this, the national team will have to offer better defensive performance than in Tokyo. Without a doubt, Prades has chosen to reinforce the center of the defense, where he has top-level specialists such as Lara González and Eli Cesáreo, two rocks on which to base the work behind with players such as Ainhoa Hernández or Irene Espínola. Veterans Silvia Navarro and Merche Castellanos are two safe under sticks. Defensive security that will allow a Spain that has very fast wingers in the first wave to run.
This World Cup, which has venues in the Valencian Community and Catalonia, has served for a small revolution in the national team. The Warriors need new blood in the coming years and a generational change. The presence of Paula Arcos, a 19-year-old front row, is an outpost in a Spanish team in which the Navarrese Nerea Pena, a key pillar for years, or the Leonese Mireya González, another regular in the calls with the former coach, Carlos Viver. To these must be added the loss of the injured Marta López, who has left her position to another of the young promises of national handball, Maitane Etxeberria, left-handed winger of the Spanish champion, Bera Bera.
Undoubtedly, the backbone of the Guerreras has changed little from previous international events. Players such as Silvia Navarro (42 years old), Carmen Martín (33 years old) or Shandy Barbosa (35 years old) continue to be key players. Prades seems willing to give more field to Silvia Arderius, a different center and little used by Viver. The physical discomfort of Alicia Fernández, which has prevented her from playing the preparatory home run that Spain played last weekend in Boadilla del Monte, will force the Madrid-born from Costa del Sol Málaga to give more minutes and relocate in that position to the front lines as Carmen Campos or Paula Arcos if the Galician center did not arrive in the best conditions.
Despite the physical deficit compared to other teams, the national team has improved significantly in this section with reliable players. Therefore, running and needing less of the static attack always helps in this regard.
The sensations left by the preparation have been good. In the home run played in Madrid last weekend, the national team gave a good account of three teams that will be present at the World Cup: Slovakia, Poland and Germany. Against the Germans, a tough and complicated selection, the national team was able to prevail by the minimum in a match that was complicated in the final stretch. The defense and the goal gave an excellent performance and the Spanish team was lethal when it could run. Prades, a coach with a wide tactical range, has tried to form a choral group that can face top-level teams.
Spanish women’s handball is no stranger to the diaspora that characterizes the male. Ten of the 18 players that make up the squad play outside our borders, in leagues more powerful than the Spanish one. France, Germany, Romania, … And it is that the Hispanic 40×20 has become an exporter of enormous talent.
Spain has been framed in Group H. Las Guerreras have an affordable first phase, in which they can shoot with a view to what will come next. They will make their debut against Argentina in Torrevieja, and then face China and close this first stage of the competition against the Austrian team. This initial phase has been divided into eight groups of four teams each. The best three will access the ‘main round’, from which the two best teams will have a pass to the quarterfinals. The way there for the Spanish women will not be excessively complicated, since the great coconuts of women’s handball, France, Norway, Russia or the Netherlands are on the other side of the table. In the second phase, the three best teams from Group G will face each other, made up of the Croatian, Japanese, Brazilian and Paraguayan teams. Also more affordable rivals. The two best teams from the ‘main round’ will go to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. From then on, in the ‘top 8’, anyone can reach the title. The Warriors were very close two years ago. Perhaps, playing at home, this time if they achieve the dream of being world champions. Dreaming is free.