|15 September 2003|
Eternal runners-up Spain were struggling to come to terms on Monday with their European Championship final defeat to Lithuania.
Both sporting newspapers Marca and El Mundo Deportivo describe Sunday’s 93-84 loss in Stockholm to the eastern Europeans as a "Bittersweet Silver”.
The result meant Spain were left once again the bridesmaid, collecting their fifth silver medal in the European Championships.
However, this time the feelings of disappointment will probably run deeper than ever because this Spain side - led by Memphis Grizzlies seven-footer Pau Gasol who poured in 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in vain - had seemed destined to go all of the way.
Marca sum up the feelings with a photo of Gasol slumped on the floor with his head buried in his hands along with the words: "Sad despite the silver medal and the trophy as maximum points scorer."
||I told the players that I had let them down
And Marca, normally as patriotic as any paper admitted, "Lithuania were much better than Spain," while el Mundo Deportivo wrote, "Spain are left with honey on their lips after losing to a better Lithuania."
Coach Moncho Lopez did his best to raise morale for a side that can take positive things from this competition, not least the silver medal and a ticket to next year's Olympic games, where they can have realistic hopes of a bronze medal.
"The first thing I said when I went into the dressing room was to tell the boys to think that they had won silver, not that they had lost the gold medal," he said in Marca.
Lopez then blamed himself for the defeat.
"We failed at the worst moment and we didn't know how to compete. I told the players that I had let them down because I couldn't help them play any better, but that they should try to smile and feel proud of the silver medal."
Nevertheless, he couldn't help admitting that Spain might never have a better chance of glory.
"We have missed a great chance and it's clear that it has not been a good night and the thing that hurts most is that we didn't play as we can.
“Lithuania prepared for the game well psychologically and physically and we couldn't beat them.”