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31/01/2016

"60 minutes of fight, then we are friends again"

FEATURE: Spain's defence chief Gedeon Guardiola is one of three Spaniards, who plays for a German club and will face one of his Bundesliga teammates in the final on Sunday

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

The Rhein-Neckar Löwen fans always shout "Olé" when Gedeon Guardiola enters the court or scores a goal for the German Bundesliga side.

But on Sunday Guardiola hopes that the Spanish and not the German fans will be cheering the most, when Spain meet Germany in the EHF EURO Final in Krakow's TAURON Arena.

"We are eager to win this final against Germany, we want it, we have been waiting for this chance for so long, now we want to make history," says Spain's defence chief.

Guardiola is one of three players in the Spanish squad who play for German clubs. Rafael Baena also plays for Rhein-Neckar Löwen, left back Joan Canellas takes to the court for THW Kiel.

At the very start of the EHF EURO preparation it seemed as if Guardiola would face more club teammates from the Löwen squad, but then Uwe Gensheimer and Patrick Groetzki sustained injuries and were not able to play for Germany.

"I feel so sorry for them, they are really missed. I talked to them over the phone during the main round," says Guardiola.

The only Löwen teammate he will face on Sunday is line player Hendrik Pekeler.

"We have wished good luck to each other, of course. But on Sunday there will be a fight, as we play against each other on the line. 60 minutes of fight, then we are friends again."

The fact that Spain won the their match against Germany in the preliminary round in Wroclaw (33:39) is not important anymore for Guardiola.

"If you are in a final, everything is different," he says.

He also does not see any advantage for his team that Germany had to go through extra time to beat Norway 34:33 in the semi-final on Friday.

"They have a young team, which recovers quickly, an amazing team with a great coach."

While Spain count on their rock-solid defence, their tall shooters and Julen Aguinagalde's goals from the line, Guardiola expects Germany to be on par with their opponents.

"They run, they shoot, they score many goals, they are highly focused and have nothing to lose," the 29-year-old says.

Nevertheless there is no lack of confidence visible in Guardiola's eyes, and he is sure that Spain have what it takes to win their first EHF EURO.

"We have grown during the tournament, we became stronger even though we did not play on the highest level in all matches. Maybe we saved the best for the last."

So what would returning to Germany, where he plays since 2012, with a gold medal mean for him?

"I think that the Löwen fans all support Germany, but I guess I will also get some applause when I return to the court, even if we win on Sunday."

It is something Guardiola already experienced. In 2013, the fans cheered for Guardiola when he returned home with his gold medal from the World Championships even though Spain had beaten Germany in the quarter-final.

written by Björn Pazen / ts