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The World Championship in Spain was something like an initial point for the Brazilian men’s team to start their preparations for the Olympic Games 2016 on home ground in Rio. And the team showed a great performance, even as the icing on the cake finally was missing. “We played excellent in Spain,” coach Jordi Ribera mentions, although he was sad that they missed the quarter-finals. But looking back on the tournament after the elimination he was pleased: “We have beaten Argentina, Tunisia and Montenegro and made it to the eight-finals in a tough group despite a weak opening match against Germany. To finish third in the preliminary round was a historic day for the Brazilian handball.”
Handball in his country was boosted in the previous years mostly by the women’s team, finishing fifth on home ground at the World Championship in 2011 and then missing highly unlucky the Olympic semi-finals after winning their preliminary group against strong European competitors. Then, just one week ago, Alexandra do Nascimento was announced female World Handball Player of the Year 2012 – as first Brazilian ever. She will be awarded together with her male counterpart Daniel Narcisse before the final of the Men’s World Championship in Barcelona on 27 January.
In contrast, the men’s team had lost their leading role in Pan-America in the previous continental competitions against Argentina. But in Spain they managed to beat the “Gauchos”, which was the start of a series of those additionally two mentioned victories. “We appreciated every moment of this tournament,” coach Jordi Ribera said: “Even as we missed the quarter-finals, this was a great competition.” Brazil had been highly close to one of the biggest surprises at this championship, but finally was defeated by Russia in the opener of the knock-out stage in Zaragoza by 27:26 – and received praises from their competitors: “Brazil was the hardest resistance we had to break in the entire competition, they played really clever against us,” Russian coach Oleg Kuleshov said.
Ribera had nominated several new players, starting to build-up the team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. “So the World Championship was a totally new experience for a big number of our players,” he said, and added: “I am very optimistic for the future.” Brazil have a guaranteed place for both men’s and women’s teams at Rio 2016 – and until then they also want to return on top of Pan-America in the male competitions and show the world what they are able to do: “We arrived in Spain as a team of the second handball division of the world, but we will return home as part of the first decision,” player Felipe Ribeiro was absolutely proud of what his team had achieved in Spain.