On Sunday, in what he has confirmed will be his last EHF EURO match, captain Raul Entrerrios will lead Spain in their third consecutive final. After clinching the trophy for the first time in 2018, Spain aim to become the first to defend the title in 18 years, after Sweden last did so – also in Stockholm.
The game will take Entrerrios’s total number of EURO matches to 60. With that, he will pass Iceland captain Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, who has occupied second position behind Nikola Karabatic in this ranking for some time. Entrerrios was unaware of his achievement.
“I didn’t know. I only try to do my job every day, in every game,” says Entrerrios. “I’m proud to be with the national team at a lot of championships. But now, I’m a player still. I’m only thinking of competing. When I leave handball, we can look at this.”
During his EURO career, Entrerrios has won a total of four medals as well as one MVP award, in 2016. It is a special championship for him, but he has almost forgotten that significance due to his focus on Spain’s unbeaten campaign.
“Not only for Sunday, this is a special championship for me. My thoughts about that were in the beginning of the championship maybe. When you start to compete you only think of the games and try to do the best of you. Now, we only have to do hard work on Sunday, and enjoy,” says the 38-year-old.
Spain’s final opponents will be Croatia, against whom they drew in the main round. It will be the 25th match overall between these sides, and the ninth EHF EURO clash. Four of those EURO games have ended in victories for Spain, while Croatia have won two and there have been two draws.
“I am sure that tomorrow will be different,” says Entrerrios of the fact that the final is a rematch of the main round clash. “Of course, we have to train about the last game. We have to see the videos and try to find solutions because Croatia is a great team. Tomorrow is the final. Everything will be different. We have to fight like always.”
The winner of the final will also earn a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This is of particular importance to Spain, who narrowly missed a place at the 2016 Olympics due to one goal in the difference calculation in their qualification tournament.
“Obviously, it’s very important for the team because we have to be there in the future. But now we are focused on this game. This is really important for us. Of course if we win tomorrow we have to celebrate a lot of things. Tokyo is there – it’s in the future. It’s in our heads. But step by step,” says Entrerrios, adding that this EURO is more challenging due to the goal of reaching the Olympic qualification tournaments for all the teams not already with a place.
“This championship is more difficult than others because it’s very important for the qualification for the Olympic Games, and all the teams know that. There are a lot of teams that try to find the way to Tokyo. Now, we are close to this success but we have a big battle,” Entrerrios concludes.