By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
When Russia take on Spain in Sunday's EuroBasket final, European basketball will witness a true David (Blatt) and Goliath showdown.
Russia's aim before this year's EuroBasket was to qualify for the Olympics.
For tournament hosts Spain however, only a gold medal was acceptable after claiming
silver on five previous trips in this event.
|Pau Gasol and Spain will have to limit the damage done by Kirilenko.|
Spain, by virtue of their world title triumph over Greece last year in Japan, booked a place at next year's Beijing Games.
Because of past near-misses in EuroBaskets and with this year's tournament being staged in Madrid, the European Championship has remained hugely important for the team, the federation and fans.
Russia will have no pressure on them when they run to the court for the final time on Sunday at the Palacio de Deportes.
"We are in the Olympic Games and that was our goal," said Andrei Kirilenko.
"They are the hosts, we can play great and we need to pick it up ourselves and play the same kind of defense as tonight, if we do, we will be fine."
Last time out: Spain defeated Greece 82-77 and Russia beat Lithuania, 86-74.
Key Match-up: Andrei Kirilenko v Pau Gasol. Lithuania got steamrolled by Andrei Kirilenko on Saturday and the dynamic Russian forward will need to have similar success against Spain and particularly, Gasol for David Blatt's team to capture gold. Gasol has played his best at the EuroBasket in the big games and even with Kirilenko lurking around the basket on defense, expect Spain's big man to be his number one option on offense.
Key Stats: Spain committed 16 turnovers against a terrific Greek defense on Saturday but they were on fire from three-point range, making 11 of 22 (50%) from long range.
Spain were superior shooting the ball in their 81-69 triumph over Russia earlier in the tournament while they also outrebounded them. 33-30.
X-Factor: Petr Samoylenko and Nikolai Padius had solid games against Lithuania and they will also have to be at their best against the Spanish backcourt for Russia to have a chance.
Speaking out: "I just think of the Old Testament and Israel where I come from, David and Goliath that's the story. Will see how it goes, if we find a sling shot and manage to knock them down then we will be the winners. It's going to be a tough game." Russia coach David Blatt.