Paula Arcos: “Being in the semifinals is not a miracle, we have worked for it”

He moved the entire country with his tears after winning the MVP against Germany. Also with the class and daring he showed on the floor of the Palau d’Esports de Granollers. At 19, Paula Arcos, who dreams of becoming the best player on the planet, has gone from idolizing Oftedal to waiting for her in the semifinals of the World Championship. Before doing so, talk to EL PERIÓDICO about the pressure, the dream World Cup and the options for Spain to get into the final.

-Let’s start at the beginning, there is much talk about the young promise of Spanish handball, but who is Paula Arcos? Paula Arcos is a 19-year-old girl who got hooked on handball for her brother and who played to have a good time with her friends. She is a player who in the League is showing that she is a fighter, a warrior and that she never lowers her arms. I am very demanding with myself and I think that is what characterizes me the most, not being afraid, going forward regardless of whoever is in front of me. I know that I have to do the four things that I do best and it does not matter if the best or the worst player in the world is ahead because doing them is how I get my best game.

-The one that is bringing out in this championship. What is the World Cup meaning to you? This World Cup is being very special for me because after the Tokyo Olympics, being so young, you always wonder if you are going to continue in the national team. In addition, with the change of coaching staff I doubted whether they would continue to bet on me. So being in the call was already a prize but above all, being able to have so many minutes and do it with my family in the stands is priceless. 19 years old, first World Cup and with group stage 30 minutes from home. It is more than a dream.

-Has having your people close been the definitive impulse to become one of the great revelations of the championship? I do not like to create expectations of how I am going to play because later if I do it wrong the blow is harder but it is true that having my family close has helped me a lot. They are the people who trust me the most and it may be that thanks to them, to that motivation of seeing them in the stands, I have had the definitive push to show the level that I am showing.

“19 years old, first World Cup and with group stage 30 minutes from home. It’s more than a dream”

– Did you hope to become someone so important within the group? Not at all. It was clear to me that going to the Olympic Games did not make me a fixture of the national team. I am 19 years old and I just entered. There will be calls in which I am and others in which I am not, it is normal because I am young and also the coach has to try more people. Entering the call was a prize and a surprise for me. So you can imagine that no, I did not expect to have so many minutes.

-The adjectives begin to run out and there is nothing more than flattery towards your person, do you begin to feel the pressure? The pressure is always on, whether they call you a promising youngster or the best player in the world. Many times we think about doing well to contribute to the team and to please the outsiders but in the end the one who we should not fail is ourselves. And that helps. With that mentality that the only person I don’t have to fail sportingly is myself, I take off a lot of pressure and go out on the track with confidence.

-Let’s focus on the team. Comparing the big European leagues with the Spanish one, many qualify as a miracle the fact that you are, again, in the semifinals. Is that so? It is not a miracle at all. It is true that our league is far from professional, especially financially, but we have many national team players who play abroad, in countries where the leagues are more professional. This is not achieved with miracles. Because both those who play abroad and those who play here have been preparing for the World Cup for a year. The Olympics helped us to be clear that we wanted to overcome the situation and not be left with a bittersweet feeling again and, for now, that is what we are doing.

-The only ones who can stop that streak are Nora Mørk, Oftedal and company. Does Norway scare? More than scaring, it motivates us. We know that they are historical players, that they know a lot about handball but if we have been capable so far, why not a little more? We are very motivated and we believe that it is possible to beat them. They arrive undefeated like us but they have drawn a match and we are clear about their strengths and how to lower them. They are very good but I don’t think they are intractable. They are doing a good championship, yes. But we did too and we arrived with confidence.

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-And what must be done to bend them? They are a team that runs a lot, that has incredible counterattack and ball speed. For this reason, what we have to do is be very attentive and not lose the ball because almost half of their goals come on the counter or with second waves. If we can lower that a little and make them feel less comfortable, we will have a chance to win the game.

-Face to face with your Oftedal reference and one step away from the final, can you ask for more? No, this is totally unbelievable. Even before the game against Germany was over, I wanted to cry. That’s why, when my body calmed down and I thought ‘Paula, you just got into a World Cup semi-finals’, everything fell on me. I wanted to celebrate, cry, everything. Because who was going to tell me that at 19 years old I would be in the semifinals of the world championship?

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