Coach Jordi Fernández has been at the head of Spain's U20 Women's team for the past five years.
Under his guidance and training, this generation of Spanish players have gone from an eight place finish in the 2005 U20 European Championship all the way to the gold medal just two years later in 2007.
Fernández thinks that this team is his most balanced "between interior and exterior play", and with rising young stars like Alba Torrens, Laura Nicholls, and Tamara Abalde who join the team fresh off their bronze-medal effort with the senior squad, Spain is among the favourites to once again claim the gold in Gdynia.
|Fernandez is especially proud of the gold medal from the 2007 U20 European Championship in Bulgaria|
FIBA EUROPE: What are Spain's goals for this European Championship?
FERNÁNDEZ: This generation has always been in the fight for the medals and this time we could not shoot for anything less. We have a group of players with experience in Europe and in the Spanish league, so we are not going to settle for anything less this time around.
FIBA EUROPE: This year is your fifth as the head coach of Spain's U20 Women. How would you compare this group of players, both on and off the court, with your previous squads?
FERNÁNDEZ: On the court, this group has a better balance between interior and exterior play, while off the court they are very disciplined. That being said, it is difficult to compare different generations because each one has its own specific charm.
FIBA EUROPE: Can the fans who followed Spain's Senior Women's team in the EuroBasket 2009 in Latvia expect the same style of play based on aggressive defense and run-and-gun offense from the U20?
FERNÁNDEZ: Our style is not any different. All Spanish teams have to base their style of play on speed and tough defense. The physical characteristics of the Spanish teams force us to play beyond our physical and talent levels.
FIBA EUROPE: Is it not a great situation for you as a coach to have Alba Torrens, Laura Nicholls, and Tamara Abalde on your roster after their great bronze-medal performance with the senior team in Latvia just last month?
FERNÁNDEZ: The commitment of these players is exceptional. With this tournament, they want to bring to a close a cycle that has been full of success.
FIBA EUROPE: How do you see the match-ups in the Preliminary Round against the three teams in Group A along with Spain- Turkey, Ukraine, and Germany?
FERNÁNDEZ: All three are great rivals. Turkey, as always, stand out for their aggressiveness and their ability to never let their opponents play comfortably. Ukraine bring back many players from previous competitions; physically they are very powerful, and they have players with experience in European club competitions. Lastly, Germany always showcase their physical quality even though they lack a little bit of experience in delicate moments.
FIBA EUROPE: For you, who are the candidates to take home the gold?
FERNÁNDEZ: It's difficult, but I believe that Russia, France, Serbia, and Spain should fight for the medals. These teams have a lot of experience and good balance. But there can always be surprises from teams such as Poland, Latvia, or Italy.
FIBA EUROPE: Which team do you think has the best chance of being the Cinderella of the tournament?
FERNÁNDEZ: I believe that Poland will be the biggest surprise. They are playing at home, and if they can overcome the opening-day jitters, then they can have a great tournament. In these last days of preparation they were able to beat Ukraine, a victory which shows their possibilities.
FIBA EUROPE: Looking ahead to a possible showdown with Serbia in the second round, what are Spain's keys for shutting down their star Sonja Petrovic? And will Spain have even extra motivation to get revenge from last year when Serbia kept you from the bronze medal?
FERNÁNDEZ: The history of games between our two teams goes back for many tournaments. A Spain-Serbia match-up is always special for both teams. Of course Petrovic is a great player, but we would be committing a huge mistake if we only concentrated on her since other players like Jovanovic can take control of a game in any given moment.
FIBA EUROPE: Of your five years at the helm of this team, what is your favourite game and moment?
FERNÁNDEZ: As far as a game, it would have to be the victory over Russia in the European Championship in Sopron [Hungary, 2006 U20 European Championship]. That win classified us among the top eight teams. And for a tournament, I can't hide my pride in the gold medal in Bulgaria [Sofia, 2007 U20 European Championship], in part due to the showing of support and affection that the Spanish federation and all my team showed me when I couldn't be at the tournament for health reasons.