Due to injuries and physical exhaustion of many of its main figures, Spain's manager Sergio Scariolo has had to choose new names
Pau Gasol, during his debut with Milwaukee, in Phoenix/ AP/ Christian Petersen
LatinAmerican Post | Rubén Sánchez
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Through various media, the big favorites to stay with the highest honors in the upcoming Basketball World Cup 2019 in China have already announced the shortlisted players. Of these, the 12 definitive names that will represent their respective countries in the Asian continent from next August 31 on will be selected.
There are both important names as well as controversial casualties, such is the case of the Spanish national team, commanded by the Italian coach, Sergio Scariolo. Days ago, he revealed a list of 16 players who will be starting practices next July 20 and whose maximum absentees are the center Paul Gasol, the forwards Serge Ibaka and Nicola Mirotic and the guard Sergio 'El Chacho' Rodríguez for different reasons, according to the Mundo Deportivo portal.
Therefore, the coach will have to deal with the respective casualties and form a squad capable of overcoming adversity to compete against their two strongest group rivals, Puerto Rico and Tunisia. If he defeats them, he ensures his pass to the round of 16, the stage at which the competition really begins and there is no other alternative but to win. "It has been a pleasure to find so much enthusiasm in those who have given us their availability, I have seen hunger to compete and gasoline for our enthusiasm and work, it puts us back where we want, in a basketball court, before huge rivals," the coach said at a press conference.
Experience can play a fundamental role in favor of Scariolo's pupils because of their winning habit, but to qualify for the next phase the possible rivals would be Italy, Philippines (if there are surprises), or the hard nut to crack in Group D, Serbia.
This last rival has been a real problem for the Spaniards in its history, since in the last 50 matches between the two teams, from 1950 to 2013, Spain has only won twice and Serbia, 36. Of these competitions, 15 matches have been friendly and 43 in official competitions, according to the data of the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) and the FIBA calendar.
However, not everything looks bad for the Italian coach, because the list of 16 players includes four NBA, including the top reference Marc Gasol, who arrives after being crowned with the Toronto Raptors in the best basketball in the world. Another nine that make up the list were present in the FIBA qualifiers for the highest competition in the discipline, so the chemistry and tactics of the game will not be unknown and difficult to apply for the short-listed players.
"Marc is the case of a player who in a certain sense, at the level of the game, has ended up hungry. Although on a physical level he ended up exhausted. His role in the national team will be very different from the one he had in Toronto, although the void left by other players will not only be filled by Marc," said the Italian.
Also, the coach referred to the absentees and explained that both Rodriguez and Ibaka have decided not to participate because of the physical exhaustion and the long season they went through. In the case of Paul Gasol, the surgery on his left foot due to stress has prevented him to be in what could have been his last World Cup as he is 39 years old, even if he has always shown interest in wearing the national-team shirt.
With regard to Mirotic, Scariolo confessed that "the only time I had to choose him was in 2011 because of its full availability, since then there have always been problems of some kind. When you have to give the list, you check who gave you the availability and based on that you give the list".
How far can the Spanish team in the World Cup after the generational change?
The habit of obtaining titles in all international competitions can take its toll on Spaniards. Despite having been on the podium since the 2006 World Cup against Greece and having won the European titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015, the Olympic silver medals in 2008 and 2012, another bronze in 2016 and the pair of continental bronzes in 2013 and 2017; they have not been able to get a new title recently and their options in the next World Cup in Asian territory, with such important casualties and a new generation of players, are not so encouraging, according to Super Deporte.
Despite this, Scariolo highlights a positive aspect: the participation and desire of the players to wear the shirt. "The generational change that has had an important moment in the qualifiers takes a step forward, I am happy that there is a wide participation of the players from the World Cup qualifiers, but it is not just another prize, it is that they have talent and skills to be on this list, I am very excited to start working and I am aware of the difficult task and the rivals' power," concluded Spain's manager.
List of the 16 players from Spain heading to China 2019
Point guards: Quino Colom (Bahcesehir / Turkey), Jaime Fernández (Unicaja Málaga, Spain), Sergio Llull (Real Madrid, Spain), Ricky Rubio (Phoenix Suns / USA).
Shooting guards and small forwards: Javier Beirán, Xavi Rabaseda (Herbalife Gran Canaria, Spain), Víctor Claver, Pau Ribas (Barcelona, Spain), Rudy Fernández (Real Madrid, Spain) and Joan Sastre (Valencia, Spain).
Power forwards and centers: Pablo Aguilar (Reggiana / Italy), Juancho Hernangómez (Denver Nuggets / USA), Ilimane Diop (Baskonia, Spain), Marc Gasol (Toronto Raptors / USA), Willy Hernangómez (Charlotte Hornets / USA) and Pierre Oriola (Barcelona, Spain).