Skopje to host an epic goalkeeping showdownArticle
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FACE TO FACE: This clash of two Spaniard goalkeepers could be the decisive factor between success and failure for both sides

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

Skopje to host an epic goalkeeping showdown

The match between Vardar and Wisla Plock in the Last 16 phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League will be a clash between two teams that have performed well throughout the group phase.

Furthermore, an interesting showdown between goalkeepers Arpad Sterbik and Rodrigo Corrales will be one to behold. The two Spaniards between the posts and two on the bench (Manolo Cadenas and Raul Gonzalez) will guarantee a thrilling encounter. Both goalkeepers came face-to-face to speak to ahead of this all important clash.

“The first match in Plock was not a satisfying performance for us. The defeat was very tough, especially because at times it felt like the winning margin could have been even greater, and Corrales played a big part in that,” commented Sterbik.

“People may think that a six-goal difference is a lot, but we know that in handball anything can happen, and Vardar are a very good team. In addition, there have pulled off many comebacks in the past, for example last year Barca won Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the quarter-finals,” admitted Corrales

History in the making

One has firmly stamped his name in the handball history books, while the other represents the future of Spanish handball. Arpad Sterbik is one of the names that everybody associates with the highest accolades in handball over the past decade. The legendary goalkeeper has been full of praise for his younger compatriot in the Wisla goal.

“I feel that the ‘little something special’ for Wisla is Corrales in goal. He’s got a lot to be happy about regarding his performances thus far. He is in excellent form and playing with confidence. He has shown great consistency despite his young age with last season being a good one for him.

“He (Corrales) is tall, technically equipped, and a well-trained goalkeeper. I am sure there are a lot of successful years ahead of him. He represents the future of Spanish handball, and I feel he will only get better with time,” said the three-time VELUX EHF Champions League winner.

In a world apart

There is a sense of mutual respect between both Spanish goalkeepers. “For me, one of the key aspects of Vardar’s game is in Arpad Sterbik - the best goalkeeper in the world. He is a player who has always made a difference,” said the 24-year old ex-Barcelona man Corrales.

“I like Sterbik because he is a quiet man, but still radiates you a lot of confidence. He always responds positively. The goalkeeper is always alone, living in a world apart from the rest, and has to think a lot during the game. I have learned you have to be quiet because sometimes the match depends on you,” added Corrales, refusing to get competitive with compatriot in goal.

“I can’t directly challenge Sterbik! I have too much respect of him and if I challenge him, I’ll motivate him and it could spur him on to save a lot of shots. I admire him a lot.”

Legendary Sterbik, who represented FC Barcelona from 2012 to 2014 before joining Vardar was following similar lines of praise for Corrales.

“I can only wish he doesn’t play as well as he did in the first match. If he does, he’s my biggest fear in this game,” said the experienced 35-year old Sterbik.

Keeping the dream alive

Despite both making their name in goal for FC Barcelona, the duo never played together for the Spanish giant. Regardless, they both dream of the very same thing – making it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

“Is difficult not to dream of the FINAL4, because we are a young side and we are very excited. But it would be a mistake to think beyond the Vardar game because we can be knocked out and then everything is over.

“We are aware that we are close to qualifying for the quarter-finals, but if we don’t perform on the night we will be knocked out, it is as simple as that.

“When we began our VELUX EHF Champions League campaign, our dream was to top the group. We had Barca, Flensburg and Kolding and wanted to compete against them. Now we are in a position to make it to the quarter-finals, which is fantastic for us and for our fans,” said Corrales who has risen through the ranks at FC Barcelona and BM Huesca before joining Orlen Wisla Plock in 2014.

The three-time winner of the competition, Sterbik, did not hide he dreams of the travelling to the FINAL4 with Vardar, but revealed that there is a lot of work to do before they can even think about securing a berth to Cologne come May.

“We have an important match against Wisla and we have to concentrate on that first. For me this Wisla team is a lot like Vardar last season. Nobody gave them a chance, but they delivered,” admitted Sterbik.

“You don’t just need a good team, you need the best team to succeed in the VELUX EHF Champions League. We hope and we dream of the FINAL4 but we’re not there yet. There’s a lot of work ahead of us. You need to play like Veszprem, Kiel or Barca, and even then nobody is guaranteed success. You need to find the right blend at the right time for it all together,” concluded Sterbik.

TEXT: Nemanja Savic / bc