|02 July 2013|
|One of the leaders for Spain in th absence of Alejandro Abrines: Daniel Diez|
Spain gave fair warning at the weekend that despite the important absence of Alejandro Abrines they will be among the medal contenders at the upcoming Sportland U20 European Championship in Tallinn.
The FC Barcelona Regal winger, who was the star of the Spanish U20 team in last year's European Championship, was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis in his right knee and will be out of action until August, therefore missing this year's edition of the tournament.
None the less, the Spanish U20 national team played host to a four-nation warm-up tournament also involving fellow Division A sides Croatia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic and claimed top spot in relaxed fashion.
On the first day the hosts prevailed comfortably 69-59 over the Czech Republic following an explosive first quarter that saw them take a 21-9 lead.
Daniel Diez had a game-high 19 points and five rebounds for the winners while point guard Jaime Fernandez was the only other Spanish player to score in double digits and finished with 13 points and four assists.
For the Czechs, big man Martin Kriz collected a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Croatia meanwhile almost threw away a late 10-point advantage but managed to hold on to edge out Slovenia, 67-66.
Forwards Antonio Boban and Henrik Sirko paved the way for the Croats by scoring 14 points each and collecting eight and five rebounds, respectively; for Slovenia, Ziga Dimec had 13 points and eight rebounds and Ziga Fifolt picked up a game-high 13 rebounds.
|Marko Ramljak and Croatia claimed second place |
On the second day, Diez and Fernandez combined for 40 points and Guillem Vives added 11 points and four assists as Spain defeated Slovenia 77-67, with more difficulty than the final score might suggest.
In the other game of the day, Croatia put in an excellent defensive effort to create a gap of 25 points over the Czech Republic midway through the third quarter, and could then afford to take their foot off the gas and still claim a 67-58 victory.
Croatian point guard Juraj Segaric led all scorers with 16 points and added five assists while Kriz collected another double-double in a losing effort, this time of 14 points and 10 boards.
On the final day of the tournament, Spain stunned Croatia with a powerful start that saw them leading 53-26 at the half-time buzzer and effectively resolve the encounter that decided first place with plenty of time to spare.
The hosts won 86-60 behind a 16-point, five-rebound display by Diez while Alejandro Suarez contributed 11 points and eight boards; for Croatia, Marko Ramljak finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in a losing effort.
Slovenia meanwhile defeated the Czechs 82-59 and took third place in the tournament.
The three-day friendly competition took place in the city of Logrono, in the northern Spanish region of La Rioja and was organised by the local government.
The Sportland U20 European Championship will take place from 9 to 21 July in the Estonian capital.