Eurobasket - Spain eye Olympic glory after Euro gold

Mon, 19 Sep 09:32:00 2011

Spain will enter next year's Olympic basketball tournament with their sights set on the only trophy missing from the cabinet after winning a second European championship title in a row.

2011 Eurobasket Spain's Pau Gasol celebrates winning the trophy - 0

A talented generation led by Los Angeles Lakers centre Pau Gasol confirmed their supremacy in Europe with a 98-85 win over France in Sunday's spectacular final in Lithuania, having finished the tournament with an impressive 10-1 record.

Gasol, who also helped Spain to the 2006 world title in Japan and Eurobasket 2009 in Poland, said Spain were heading to London with only one thing on their minds.

"Obviously, next year's Olympics is our goal," he said. "We know it's a very tough tournament to win but we have very high expectations.

"It's very hard to beat a US team, we know that for a fact, but we are going to London to compete and we will see what happens".

His younger brother Marc, one of six NBA players in the Spanish ranks, said if they reproduced the same kind of form in London anything was possible.

"Gold is the goal in next year's Olympics and it's possible if we play the same way and show the same team spirit," he added. "London is going to be a great challenge".

Spain came close to winning Olympic gold in Beijing but went down 118-107 to a United States team that included Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Gasol went on to join Bryant at the Lakers and lifted his first NBA title in 2009, leaving the Olympic gold medal as the only silverware missing from his collection.

In addition to the veteran leadership of Gasol and tournament MVP Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain also have emerging talents such as 20-year-old Minnesota Timberwolves playmaker Ricky Rubio and Congolese-born forward Serge Ibaka, who made his debut for his adopted country at Eurobasket 2011 after gaining Spanish citizenship in July.

Rudy Fernandez, a 26-year-old forward who joined NBA champions Dallas Mavericks from the Portland Trailblazers during the summer break, is a lynchpin holding the two age groups together and making sure they fire on all cylinders.

Spain had set standards that other European countries had to try to match, said France point guard Tony Parker, a triple NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs.

"They have been playing together for six or seven years and I know how it feels from my experience at San Antonio, where we have played for many years together," said Parker, who won the NBA title with the Spurs in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

"It makes a difference when the tough times come.

"We are still learning, everybody has to be patient. There is a lot of stuff to improve but with the experience we will get better," he added.

Spain and France have qualified automatically for the Olympics from Europe along with hosts Great Britain, who performed well in Lithuania although they were knocked out in the preliminary rounds.

The British, led by Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, had two wins and three defeats, one of which was an 86-69 loss to Spain in which they held their own for three quarters of the game.

Russia, Macedonia, Lithuania and Greece, who finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth, will enter an inter-continental 12-team playoff for another three Olympic berths next year.

Reuters

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