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Date: 1/27/2013

It is match number 84 at the Men’s World Championship in Spain – and it will bring the decision, whether host Spain will become World Champion for the second time after 2005 or if Denmark will win their first ever gold medals at a World Championship after finishing as silver medalists in 1967 and 2011. It’s the final!

And this gold medal match on Sunday (throw-off 17.15 hrs local time) will bring on several crucial duels: The goalkeepers Niklas Landin (Denmark) and Arpad Sterbik (Spain), the wing players Anders Eggert (current top scorer) and Hans Lindberg on the Danish side and Victor Tomas and Albert Rocas on the Spanish side, the back court shooters Mikkel Hansen and Nicolaj Markussen (Denmark) against Alberto Entrerrios and Jorge Maqueda (Spain), the defence specialists Viran Morros (Spain) and Kasper Nielsen (Denmark)  – or the line players Rene Toft Hansan vs. Julen Aguinagalde.

But mostly it will be the duel of two coaching legends –and one will definitely make history on Sunday: Spanish Valero Rivera is the most successful handball coach in the world, as he has won 70 titles already – but all on club side, all with FC Barcelona, the club of his home town. Winning gold would bring Rivera the first ever trophy with the national team, he is coaching since 2009. On the other hand it is Ulrik Wilbek, on Thursday awarded IHF World Coach of the Year. If Denmark wins, he will be the first ever coach in handball to become world champion with a male and a female team, as he led the Danish women to the triple gold in the 1990’s (World, European and Olympic champions). In 2008, when he led the Danish men to their first (of two) European titles, he already became the first coach to earn gold with both genders on continental level.

And both coaches have greatest respect for their competitor: “The chances are 50:50, considering that we have to face the home team,” Wilbek said – and praised the Spanish team: “We will have to play a completely different style as we played before. They play as fast as we do, but they do not like to be put under pressure by speed as we can. We have greatest respect for them, as they have for us,” Wilbek said. And his team proved exactly one year ago that they are not afraid of playing against a frenetic crowd, when they beat Serbia on Serbian ground in the final of the European championship  - after a thrilling semi victory against Spain.

For Rivera, Denmark is even the favourite in the final – despite the home advantage in the sold-out Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona: “In the last four years we only won one single game against Denmark – a test match. Of course we play at home and we are trying everything to win, but Denmark is highly strong.” In general, Rivera is no friend of ‘favourite roles’ before matches: “When I was coach in Barcelona we were favourite in so many games, but this never meant an advantage for us, as we start at zero.”

But for him the big dream can come true: “With Barcelona I coached the first ever Spanish team to win the Champion’s Cup, forerunner of the Champions League – in my hometown. If I now would become World Champion in my hometown, it would be the greatest.”

In the opinion of both coaches those teams have reached the final, which have the hugest width on their bench:  “Those teams with the biggest team spirit and the knowledge to play as a team arrived in the semi-finals,” Rivera said, and added: “Finally the power in the defence, and the defence in combination with the goalkeepers will decide, like in all team sports like football, water polo or hockey. The team with the most active defence will win the final on Sunday, with players who put the attackers under pressure to get in ball possession, who then start counter-attacks. Both teams will play a fast and highly attractive handball.”

And the final will expectedly attract the biggest ever TV audience in Denmark – as two stations broadcast the match live. In total, the final will be covered in 150 countries all over the world. And even the TV stations of both final nations have handball legends in their team: On Danish side national team record player Lars Christiansen and former defence specialist Joachim Boldsen are TV experts, as on Spanish side Jose Javier Hombrados will be co-commentator. The goalkeeper miss the World Championship after a rupture of the crucial ligament in October – but has already the next top target ahead.

And another handball legend will be among the spectators: two times World Handball Player of the Year Talant Dushebajew. After Croatia has won the bronze medal on Saturday, the coach of Atletico Madrid will definitely welcome a whole cabinet of medals in his first training session after the World Championship: Jakov Gojun (Croatia) is bronze medallist, Nicolaj Markussen (Denmark) and Joan Canellas and Julen Aguinagalde (both Spain) will face in the final. Additionally the clubs of Barcelona (seven Spaniards and Jesper Noddesbo), Rhein Neckar Löwen (Gedeon Guardiola/ESP and Niklas Landin/DEN) and Paris Handball (Mikkel Hansen/DEN and Antonio Garcia and Jose Manuel Sierra/both ESP) will definitely have gold and silver medallists in their squads. “I just have to win this final. Because I do not want to return to my club in Madrid to be called silver medallist by my Spanish team mates,” Markussen said.