If Spain were to make the podium in Croatia, it would be the third EHF EURO in a row where they have returned home with a medal. However, since grabbing silver at the last Men’s EHF EURO in Poland in 2016, they have had a bad run at the two major competitions since, missing qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio by a tiny margin and being eliminated by Croatia in the quarter-finals at the 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship in France.
Right wing Victor Tomas is the big name missing from the Spanish squad. The FC Barcelona Lassa captain has been out of the national team since France 2017, as Spain coach Jordi Ribera starts giving opportunities to younger players in the new Olympic cycle ahead of Tokyo 2020. Compared with the squad from France 2017, left back Alejandro Costoya is the other player who is missing.
Dani Dujshebaev (left back), the younger son of Talant and brother of fellow Spanish player, Alex, will play his first big championship with the senior team at just 20 years old and he already has world championship gold after becoming IHF Junior World Champion in Algeria last July.
Ferran Sole will debut as well in a big tournament after playing six games already for the senior team on the wing.
MVP of EHF EURO 2016 and Spain captain Raul Entrerrios will lead the team in attack with his privileged vision of handball. Alex Dujshebaev will also play a significant role - as he has shown before at the highest level - while HBC Nantes player Eduardo Gurbindo is in good shape with his versatility making him a key player for Ribera.
Spain’s fast-break will be key to breaking their opponents with David Balaguer, Angel Fernandez and the experienced Valero Rivera. For Balaguer and Fernandez, Croatia will be their second big tournament after their debut last year in France with a big performance and taking a veteran role, without pressure.
Most goals will arrive from their hands, but Ferran Sole should not be forgotten too and will be interesting to see how he will be adapted into the team.
Without a shooter on the outside, another key point in attack for Spain is the connection to their line players, most notably Julen Aginagalde (Kielce) and Adria Figueras (BM Granollers).
Like all teams at EHF EURO 2018 defence is an important aspect for Spain. Viran Morros and Gedeon Guardiola are defensive specialists, but Ribera’s objective is to keep the changes to as minimum as possible when transitioning from defence to attack so the team can play faster.
The ‘Hispanos’ main defence is 6-0 but they have recently worked with 5-1 in their last friendly preparation matches and the Spanish defensive wall will be one of the driving forces behind Spain getting a positive result in Croatia. Boasting one of the best pairs of shot-stoppers at the EURO, Spain can rely on FC Barcelona goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas – voted as the best in his position in the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League, as well as Rodrigo Gorrales, from the dominant French force of Paris Saint-Germain.
EHF EURO 2018 will be the second big championship with Spain for coach Jordi Ribera. The former coach of Argentina and Brazil, he took charge in September 2016, replacing Manolo Cadenas, who since took over the Argentina men’s team. Ribera’s major championship debut was France 2017 where his side were eliminated in the last eight.
Ribera is a methodical coach who really focuses on tactics, both in attack and defence. Ahead of France 2017, held in January, he only had four months to work with the team and introduce his variants and changes. Now, in Croatia, it will be his big first test after more than a year in the role which has the main aim of building a solid team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Since Ribera’s arrival no player has a guaranteed place in the senior national team, but with the aim of 2020 in his sights the former Brazil coach has worked with a lot of young players, including up to eight who are not in the roster for Croatia, but with whom the objective is to introduce them into the squad for future. Two examples include goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez and line player Antonio Bazan with both involved with the senior team preparation before Christmas and then leaving the squad ahead of Croatia.
Spain will fight in Preliminary Round Group D in Varazdin against Denmark, Czech Republic and Hungary with the objective of finishing in top spot to go to the Main Round with maximum points and more options of reaching the semi-finals. Their strongest opponents in the first stage will be Denmark, current Olympic champions, and probably, their direct duel for top spot in the group.
The goal for the Hispanos is to arrive in Zagreb for the final weekend and get their only missing EHF EURO medal – and their third in a row at an EHF EURO after bronze at Denmark 2014 and silver at Poland 2016.
Spain are double IHF Men’s World Champions (Tunisia 2005 and Spain 2013) but have never won an EHF EURO, and it is a high priority after finishing in the medals seven times – four times in second (1996, 1998, 2006, 2016) and in third twice (2000 and 2014).
The 17 players selected by Spain for the Men's EHF EURO 2018
Goalkeepers: Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (FC Barcelona Lassa), Rodrigo Corrales (PSG Handball)
Centre Backs: Raul Entrerrios (FC Barcelona Lassa), Daniel Sarmiento (Saint Raphael)
Right Backs: Eduardo Gurbindo (HBC Nantes), Alex Dujshebaev (PGE Vive Kielce)
Left Back: Joan Canellas (HC Vardar), Viran Morros (FC Barcelona Lassa), Iosu Goni (Pais d'Aix Universite), Daniel Dujshebaev (RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko)
Right Wing: Ferran Sole (Fenix Toulouse Handball), David Balaguer (HBC Nantes)
Left Wing: Angel Fernandez (Ciudad de Logrono), Valero Rivera (FC Barcelona Lassa)
Line Player: Julen Aginagalde (KS Vive Tauron Kielce), Gedeon Guardiola (Rhein-Neckar Lowen), Adria Figueras (Fraikin Granollers)