Spain Focused On Job At Hand

The title may not have been at stake on Tuesday when Spain beat the defending champions Serbia 76-64 in a re-match of last year's final, but a few members of the Spanish team will admit that the result gave them at least a partial revenge.

"It was a very important win because it got us off to a good start in the Qualifying Round and we know that in our group there are no easy games," said head coach Carlos Colinas, who was in charge when the Spaniards were crushed 72-48 in last year's final of the U18 European Championship for Women in Novi
Vega Gimeno (Spain)
Vega Gimeno has been a key contributor for Spain.

"For me and the two girls (Maria Xargay and Alba Garcia) who were involved in last year's final, it may have been a bit more special than for the other players. But at the end of the day and in this phase of the tournament, every win is important." 

The victory saw Spain (2-1) take second place in Group F behind unbeaten France (4-0) ahead of their marquee clash on Wednesday and pushed Serbia down to fourth (1-2).

Putting the result's impact on the standings aside, Colinas felt the win kept his team in the right frame of mind as they won their third game in a row and put an end to talk of their defeat at the hands of Russia last Friday still crippling them mentally.

"I think our loss against Russia was a result of our anxiety and nervousness. We wanted to play so well and win so much that we may have pushed ourselves too hard. That's behind us now and we have learned our lessons from that," he added.

And getting ready for the tournament has proved harder than expected, the Spanish coach admitted.

"It has been a challenge to prepare for this tournament. We only played three friendly games as a warm-up but now we are getting to be the team I expected us to be."

Colinas has also had to change his starting line-ups in the past two games as fatigue, injuries and illness have hit some of his key players.

"Isabel (Perez) didn't start against Serbia because she wasn't feeling too well. Actually she didn't even train," he revealed.

Shuffling the line-up though hasn't been a bad thing for Spain - in fact it's proved quite effective. Vega Gemino, who provided a vital lift off the bench in the Preliminary Round, looked just as comfortable in the starting five, taking the place of Perez on Tuesday against Serbia and finishing with her second consecutive double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds).

"Vega has been the most consistent player we have had so far," Colinas pointed out.

Meanwhile, being demoted from the starting five actually paid dividends for Leonor Rodriguez, who took over Gemino's role of first reserve off the bench and played it to perfection (17 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks) against Serbia.

Asked whether he expects to be in the semi-finals on Saturday, Colinas doesn't get too caught up in predictions or guarantees and says his team is just focused on finishing the Qualifying Round as strongly as possible.

"I would rather be in Group E than in Group F," he joked. "We have France, Russia, Serbia and even Sweden who can battle for a place in the semi-finals.  But there's nothing we can do about it so we're just doing the best we can out on the court."

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