By Jeff Taylor
Spain’s women have finally broken their final four jinx and reached the gold medal game after semi-final defeats at the three previous EuroBaskets.
If they are to win a EuroBasket title for the first time since 1993, they will have to do something the men couldn’t do three weeks ago in Madrid and that is beat Russia.
Unlike that showdown, however, it’s the Russians who are favourites in Sunday’s
championship game and not Spain.
|Osipova and her team-mate Stepanova give Russia a big advantage inside.|
For Evaristo Perez, who is making his EuroBasket debut as Spain’s coach, this tournament could not have gone any better to this point.
“This is my first experience with this team,” he said. “I'm really happy that we did it. We have to consider that Russia is one of the best teams that have ever played.
“As strong as they are, though, we can always find one way to win.
“And I hope we can find that way on Sunday.”
Russia, who beat Spain in the qualifying round 64-49, finished runners-up in 2001.
They won gold two years later by beating the Czech Republic and in 2005 in Turkey, the Czechs avenged that defeat by beating the Russians in Turkey.
Last Result: Russia hammered Latvia 67-36 and Spain beat Belarus 70-54.
Key Match-up: Spain’s Anna Montanana v Irina Osipova of Russia. Osipova has been Russia’s best player in this tournament on both ends of the floor. It will be imperative for Montanana to keep the Spartak Moscow Region center off the boards.
Key Stat: Russia’s twin towers Osipova and Stepanova scored half of their team’s points in the 64-49 qualifying round victory over Spain on October 3.
X-Factor: Isabel Sanchez has been one of Spain’s best players off the bench but in the defeat to Russia, the 1.78m small forward/shooting guard was ineffective. She played just seven minutes and missed her only shot from the floor.
Speaking Out: “They are the favourites. They have tall players, strong players. People will never believe we can win. But we’re looking at it like it’s another challenge, and we’re going to do everything- the players, the coaches, our family, the people in Spain – they’ll all try to help us win. And they’ll be happy after it’s over no matter what happens because they’ll know we gave everything we could to try and win the game.”