Spain mixing old and young in bid to repeat success of golden era
Fernando Munoz’s team will end their six-year absence from the competition when they take on Slovakia on Friday 6 June, followed by China on Saturday 7 June and the hosts Puerto Rico on Sunday 8 June in the Guillermo Angulo Coliseum sports hall in the city of Carolina.
Spain’s debut in the competition on May 19, 1995 marked the start of a golden period for the Iberians. The team was coached by Argentine Raul Lozano and they took on volleyball superpower Brazil in the Palau Municipal Sports Hall in Barcelona.
It marked an impressive start and while Lozano stated before the tournament, “We do not intend to work miracles, but we do want that this tournament help us to grow as a team,” six wins in 12 matches took the side to seventh, one place off the Final Round. Furthermore star player Rafael Pascual was voted as Best Scorer and third Best Server in the Intercontinental round.
“We became the revelation of the World League that season,” Lozano said the following year. “Chance or luck does not exist in this sport. The Spanish team played very well, was very focused, and showed a great hunger for victory.”
Links to the glorious past
Current coach Munoz was part of the backroom staff in 1995, as one of Lozano’s assistants, while current assistant coach Carlos Carreno was in the 1995 squad as middle-blocker and just starting out on a lengthy career that would eventual yield 371 international caps.
“It is amazing how time flies,” Munoz said. “It was so exciting to be part of the team that debuted in World League, stood up against rivals as USA, Brazil and Cuba and nearly qualified to Final Round, only missing the ticket for the final stage in the last match of Intercontinental Round.
“Since then, I have participated in five World Leagues and I had the chance to experience one Final Round, but that first time will always remain as an extremely valuable experience for me.”
As in 1995 the current squad is characterised by its youthful nature. Nineteen years ago 25-year-olds Rafael Pascual and Jesus Garrido were the rising stars of the squad, while the likes of Miguel Aangel Falasca, Juan Jose Salvador and Carlos Carreno, all of them aged 20 to 22 years-old, had made their way into the team after winning the silver medal at the Junior European Championship three years earlier.
This time 31-year-old Guillermo Hernan and 32-year-old Manuel Sevillano are the wise heads of the team and the only two remaining members of the legendary squad that won the 2007 European Championship. The rest of the line-up will be formed by a group of promising players who four years ago won silver at the Junior European Championship.
“For us, this tournament represents an outstanding opportunity to develop as a team as well as to make our way back to the international elite,” captain Hernan said. “The fact that we will be facing such high-level rivals represents the ideal situation for us in order to be able to show our progression as a team.”
“I just hope that this new participation in World League will be as exciting and productive in our performance as it was 19 years ago. It will be difficult for us, but we will not give up anything, so we can achieve our goals,” Munoz added.
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