Alex Dujshebaev: Spain hope to end the curse of defending champions

INTERVIEW: Spain's right back Alex Dujshebaev talks about expectations at the EHF EURO, advice from his father Talant and an almost empty training hall in Kielce

Alex Dujshebaev is positive about the way the EHF EURO 2020 is going for Spain. Photo © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff

He was EHF EURO champion and All-star Team player in 2018, silver medallist at the EHF EURO 2016 and VELUX EHF Champions League top scorer in the 2018/19 season – Alex Dujshebaev is a key player in the Spanish team and at club level for PGE Vive Kielce, where he and his brother Daniel are coached by their father Talant.

After four matches, the defending champions still have a clean record. Before Spain face hosts Austria, ehf-euro.com talked to the right back of the Spanish team.

ehf-euro.com: You beat the Czech Republic in your main round opener, your fourth victory in four EHF EURO 2020 matches. How close is Spain already to the semi-finals?

Alex Dujshebaev: It feels good to have four points on our account, but we shouldn’t think too much about the semi-final, as we still have tough matches ahead. But if we continue to play like we’ve played so far, we have good chances. Still, we should think step by step.

ehf-euro.com: In the next match you face Austria. Is it harder to face a tournament's hosts?

Alex Dujshebaev: Of course, this is really difficult, as the fans stand as one behind the Austrian team. The Austrians showed some impressive performances in the first stage. We have to beware of experienced players such as Nikola Bilyk, and we must have a defence like in our previous matches. But we have confidence and hope to take two important points against them.

ehf-euro.com: What was the crucial point of the tournament so far?

Alex Dujshebaev: Beating Germany was hopefully key to the rest of the tournament. Those two points were very important for our dream to make it to the semi-finals. And mentally we proved ourselves in all matches that we are in a good form.  

ehf-euro.com: As usual Spain counts on a strong defence – what is the secret?

Alex Dujshebaev: Defence is the key for everything in the Spanish match plan. We have many varieties in defence, so we can adapt to all opponents quite easy. If our defence stands as usual and our great goalkeepers Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and Rodrigo Corrales save as they did so far, this is a great starting point for our counter-attacks. It gives us confidence and we feel better.

ehf-euro.com: You mentioned the goalkeepers – are they making magic at the moment?

Alex Dujshebaev: We are very, very happy with them, as they are two of the best goalkeepers in the world and give us confidence for the defence. We know that we you make a mistake and that you still have a goalkeeper like them behind you, it makes life much easier for you.

ehf-euro.com: Since Sweden in 2002, no defending champions have made it to the podium in the next EHF EURO. Can Spain end this winners’ curse?

Alex Dujshebaev: We will try to end this 18-year long series! But it is still a very long way to the podium ahead of us. We will be challenged in Vienna, but still it is our dream to fight for the gold medal again. But now we only think about Austria and how we can beat them.

ehf-euro.com: Is it another advantage that the successful 2018 team did not change that much?

Alex Dujshebaev: We have a highly experienced team and we’ve played together for a long time, and practically it is the same team which won the gold medal two years ago. This gives us confidence, everybody knows what to do and what the teammates do.

ehf-euro.com: Your father Talant coaches you and your brother Daniel at Kielce. Has he given any advice to his sons during the EHF EURO?

Alex Dujshebaev: We have an intense contact, if not every day, then every second day. After every game he tells his sons what he recognised, what was good and what must improve. At the moment, he is very happy with us, as we both show a strong performance, only little things must change, he says.

ehf-euro.com: Kielce has more players at the EHF EURO 2020 than any other VELUX EHF Champions League participant. What does this mean for the club?

Alex Dujshebaev: I would say I play for the right club! I saw a picture from our current club training on the internet, and there are not many players at the moment. Kielce can count on many strong national team players and it feels very good to play for the team. Those tournaments give the players the chance to gain experience and confidence – and finally this experience brings the club ahead for the future.

written by Björn Pazen / jh