The EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia represents both an opportunity and a challenge for the ‘Hispanos’, who want to return to the medal fight after missing the 2016 Olympic Games and an unexpectedly early elimination in the quarter-finals at the World Championship 2017.
Spain have claimed two World Championship titles, in 2005 and 2013, as well as numerous medals at major events, but they have never won the EHF EURO or the Olympic Games. Their EURO medal count stands at four silver – in 1996, 1998, 2006 and 2016 – and two bronze (2000, 2014). Spain finished third at the 1996, 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games before ranking seventh at London 2012 and falling short in the qualification stage for Rio 2016.
It has been a difficult two years for Spain following their appearance in the final at the previous EURO in Poland, and the team is now rebuilding with the long-term goal of peaking for the 2020 Olympic Games. Jordi Ribera has rejuvenated the squad since assuming the role of head coach in September 2016, aiming to introduce young players who will be the future of the EHF EURO 2016 runners-up.
15 January: Left wing Aitor Arino (107 internationals/23 goals) replaces Angel Fernandez.
17 January: Left back Josu Goni Leon (26 internationals/46 goals) replaces Julen Aguinagalde.
21 January: Line player Julen Aguinagalde (166 matches/420 goals) replaces Josu Goni Leon.
24 January: Left back Josu Goni Leon (27 internationals/54 goals) replaces Daniel Dujshebaev.
26 January: Goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik (75 internationals/0 goals) replaces Gonzalo Perez de Vargas.
Remaining replacements Spain: 1 (1 in main round)
Irun-born Julen Aguinagalde is one of the long-time pillars of the Spain team. He is widely regarded as one of the best line players in the world, making regular appearances on All-star Teams, including at the EHF EURO 2016, the World Championship 2013 when Spain raised the trophy, and the 2012 Olympic Games.
Aguinagalde is valuable in both offence and defence, with movement around the six-metre line and high shooting accuracy his most dangerous attacking weapons.
On a club level, Aguinagalde scored the final goal to clinch Kielce’s VELUX EHF Champions League title in 2016, and previously played for Atletico Madrid, Ciudad Real and Ademar Leon.
His biggest achievements with Spain include the 2013 world title, the EHF EURO 2016 silver medal, and bronze medals at the World Championship 2011 and the EURO 2014.
Valero Rivera is synonymous with efficiency from the left wing. The FC Barcelona Lassa player has been one of the best in his position for years thanks to his counter attacks and accuracy from the penalty line.
Rivera began his career with FC Barcelona, before transferring between various Spanish clubs then moving to France to play for HBC Nantes. The 32-year-old stayed with Nantes from 2010 to 2016, making it to the finals of the EHF Cup twice and playing a key role in the club’s successful debut Champions League season. Nantes reached the Last 16 in their maiden Champions League campaign in 2016/17, where they were knocked out by PSG Handball.
Rivera was part of the victorious World Championship 2013 squad, and also won the silver and bronze EURO medals in 2016 and 2014.
His father, also called Valero Rivera, was the coach when Spain won the world title in 2013.
After leading the Brazil men’s national programme for several years, Jordi Ribera returned to his native Spain to become head coach of the national side in September 2016.
Ribera achieved significant leaps in Brazil’s development during his time at the helm, from 2005 to 2008 then 2012 to 2016, ultimately reaching the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympic Games – the Pan American nation’s best result ever. He also coached Spanish club Ademar Leon from 2007 to 2011.
Just as he did with Brazil, Ribera is involved with all Spain’s men’s national teams, with the Junior and Youth teams winning gold and silver, respectively, at their World Championships in 2017.
Following an EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase that saw Spain achieve the maximum number of points from only victories, Ribera now looks to his first major tournament as head coach.
Past Performance at EHF EURO Events