Third Place Game Preview: Russia v Spain

21.07.2013

U20 MEN

Each of Russia and Spain possesses one distinctive advantage in the run-up to the battle for the bronze medal at the Sportland U20 European Championship on Sunday.

At a first glance it is a direct clash for third place of defence against offence, as Russia are the third-leading offensive side and Spain are the third-best defensive side in the tournament in Estonia.

Spain had won 76-54 when the two teams met in the opener, a scoreline that could hardly make this distinction more apparent.

Almost two weeks have elapsed since then though, and each of these two teams has played eight more games in between.

Besides, there is now a medal at play.

SPAIN - MENTAL EDGE

14. Julen Olaizola (Spain)
Still frustrated or ready to go for another medal? That is the question for Julen Olaizola and his teammates

While it is commonplace to say that the Bronze Medal Game is the clash that no one wants to play in but once there, everyone wants to win it, the transition from one stage to the other is not so straightforward.

Following a loss in a semi-final, any player will replay over and over again in his mind myriads of moments, relive his mistakes, and go through a mix of rage, impotence and disappointment until hours after the final buzzer.

Much like the famous five stages of grief, all players will have to go through this process, unless they have successfully replaced their brain with an electronic circuitry.

What makes the crucial difference is the speed with which one gets through the entire process.

If a player wakes up on Sunday morning or goes to lunch that day realizing that there is actually a medal at a European Championship at play, he is doing fine; if the realization hits him like a tone of bricks during the actual bronze medal game, because he spent the day mourning the missed chance to play in the final, he has a problem.

Spain have the clear advantage in this psychological field, despite the fact their semi-final loss to Latvia was the most dramatic and they have much more emotions to go through.

The reason is that this group of Spanish players is much more experienced than their Russian counterparts in the games where a medal was at a stake in a European Championship.

What's more, five Spaniards who will take to the floor on Sunday were on the team also in last year's tournament n Slovenia, when they overcame exactly the Bronze Medal Game blues to clinch a victory over Serbia and step on the podium.

They all know the feeling of boarding a plane home on Monday, with a sense of accomplishment, less than 48 hours after feeling the ground opening up below your feet.

6. Denis Zakharov (Russia)
Denis Zakharov and Russia can capture the first medal for the country at U20s since gold in 2005 on home soil

RUSSIA - ENERGY LEVELS INTACT

One can argue however that Spain's advantage is quite abstract, while Russia's is much more tangible - namely, fresh legs and lungs

Denis Zakharov and Aleksander Gudumak are the two players that have had the more time on the floor for Russia in this tournament and none of the two has averaged above 30 minutes per game.

In Saturday's semi-final against Italy, Russia used 11 players and Gudumak was the only one to play for more than three quarters.

Spain on the other hand have Daniel Diez and Guillem Vives clocking in more than 31 minutes-per-game on average while Jaime Fernandez only dropped below the thirty-minute mark because he fouled out in the semi-final after 25 minutes.

The Spanish used only eight players in that game and Diez, one of the iron men of this tournament, stayed on the floor for the entire 40 minutes.

While no one can prove that fatigue has its effect on Spain losing the crucial rebound that led to their downfall in that game, it is a fact that they shot the ball above 70% in the first quarter but ended up with a 38.1 field-goal percentage.

 

Highlights from the teams' first meeting on day one of the Sportland U20 European Championship


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