For a coach experiencing his first European U18 Championship for Women, Spain boss Carlos Colinas looks extremely at ease.
But with the Spanish having won the last three European tournaments in a row, one would think he might feel some pressure to keep the streak alive.
Colinas, who lauds the maturity and character of his 12 players in this tournament, says he does not.
|Athletic and creative players like Agnieszka Skobel will worry Colinas in his match-up with Poland.|
In an interview with Cindy Garcia-Bennett, on behalf of FIBA Europe, Colinas reveals the secret behind Spain's success in recent years.
FIBA Europe: Congratulations Carlos. Spain have reached the semi-final stage and will now meet Poland for a place in the final. How confident are you that Spain will kept its title defense alive and play in the championship game?
Colinas: "Right now, we are where we want to be. I have great confidence in this team. I think we have a lot of talent, but most of all, we have been able to create a group. The fact that none of our players are in the top individual standings could give me cause for concern, but on the contrary, it gives me joy because we play like a team. Every player has a say in this team."
FIBA Europe: Spain lost for the time against France, which complicated your chances of progressing to the final. How difficult was it to bounce back from that slip and beat Russia in the last qualifying group game?
Colinas:"I was very impressed with how the team reacted to our loss to France. We knew we depended on ourselves and we bounced back in style with a fantastic win against Russia. But now we must postpone that euphoria because in the semi-final stages of any tournament you face the best teams. Our aim was to finish first of our group because we really wanted to avoid a meeting with host nation Serbia in the semi-final stages. We knew that Serbia would be very determined to beat us having twice lost against us in the last two finals."
FIBA Europe: Poland have shown they can play very good basketball. What problems will they cause you?
Colinas:"Looking at the past, for us the semis have always posed a bigger threat than the final game. There is more tension because that is the game where you win or lose a medal.
We know we face a very big challenge. Poland have very good perimeter players but they are very inconsistent. They are capable of being the best, and the worst. They can win a game when it looks almost impossible, they are very creative and athletic players and yet very anarchic. We have to limit their play and impose our rhythm. We hope to recover Beatriz Rey (ankle injury) while it's unlikely we will have Marta Perez available (knee injury).
FIBA Europe: Which players and teams have surprised you the most in this tournament?
Colinas: "Russian center Natalia Vieru and Slovakian center Regina Palusna have played very good basketball. Vieru is in her second European Championship and her performances have been very impressive. I think she is and will be a very important player in
"As for Palusna, she has made a huge leap in quality with respect to two years ago.
"I have enjoyed watching the Czech Republic but if I had to choose a team, I would definitely choose my team. We have been able to overcome adversity and have shown great
|Tamara Abalde is one of Spain's key players.|
FIBA Europe: What has been the key to the Spanish youth teams being able to compete for several years at the highest level?
Colinas: "We have a generation of players that have played together for the last four of five years. They know each other well. Despite their age, they are matured players, I have known them since they were 13 and they have a professional mentality and more importantly, they have a lot of human qualities that emerge especially in the difficult times. My players have competition flowing in their veins, they are able to play at the top level and it doesn't give them any stress, which is soothing for me. This is the first year that I am coaching the U18 National Team. I have been four years with the U16 National Team. This is the fifth semi-final we play as a group and this is important for them and for me. This allows us to go into this tournament with a lot of experience."
FIBA Europe: Will we see any of these players competing with the senior team and does the future of the senior team look promissing?
Colinas: "We have four players (Tamara Abalde, Alba Torrens, Laura Herrera and Laura Nicholls) from this team that will be competing at the U19 World Championship for Women later this summer. We have a lot of talent, however, we shouldn't forget that we have a
physical handicap and that is height, which becomes crucial in the senior competitions. Right now, we have a privileged generation, where we have two forwards who are 1.90m tall and 1.92m tall, which is unsual for us.
"We have to balance this with other qualities, such as competitive spirit and the spanish heart that is key to every National Team. Russia trembles when they play against Spain and it's not because we play faster and stronger than them but because we have a competitive spirit. I believe where the Spanish women National Teams are right now is already a cause of merit."