BLOG: Desire!Article
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Despite an expected defeat at Palacio Vistalegre ehfTV commentator Tom Ó Brannagáin still expects in his blog that Barcelona can overcome the deficit and qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4

BLOG: Desire!

A very well known handball player, a winner of many titles, once told me that his particular team always had the desire to win. They knew, as a team, that they were good, but also knew that they had to match everything the opposition threw at them, and then let class tell out.

In a previous blog, I spoke about this very same point. You must match the other team in intensity and fight and then win the game.

They say there is nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal. It is a stark image and one the perfectly sums up Atlético Madrid this season. Shorn of great players through transfer dealings and injuries, all they had after three defeats to Barcelona was pride and a desire to prove that they haven´t gone away.

It was a game of high intensity, but low quality. Every Madrid player fought for every cm on the court. Every 50/50 ball. They used every trick they had at their disposal to derail a more fluid and classy team. 11,000 plus spectators gave fuel to their tired minds and bodies and at no stage in the game was Barca allowed to dominate. It was as if every player among them had a point to prove, as if everyone of them was playing as a team that may not be together for much longer.

Balić showed that his class deserved to be at this stage, something he hadn´t achieved in so long with Zagreb. Cañellas showed every single shot in his armoury. Lazarov played on one leg. Hombrados rolled back the years with save after save, including two penalties in the dying moments that could turn out to be crucial.

It is difficult to comment on Barca. There were no stand out performances. They must have known it wasn´t going to be their day when Balić turned goalkeeper to stop a ball entering an empty net. Sheer will-power on Madrid´s part knocked the stuffing out of the Catalan stars.

What I will say is that Madrid will find it difficult to perform at this level again. It was an effort of super-human proportions. Barca, on the other hand, can´t play this badly again and will, surely, improve drastically.

In the return leg, I fancy that Barca will find the desire to win and overcome the deficit. They know that the names on the back of the jerseys don´t win games. They must dig deep in to the depths of their character and find the wherewithal to match what they faced over the weekend.

They have done it before. Last season the same referees whistled the away game of the last 16 in Montpellier, when Barca were equally poor. The return leg was a masterclass in fluid, total handball. They destroyed Montpellier. If they can find the source of that performance again, I believe they will overcome Madrid to gain a place at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

A little sign perhaps? Hope springs eternal.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator