Spanish Empire Prepares To Strike Back

25.09.2013

EUROBASKET 2013

José Calderón (Spain)
"Fourth place would have been a negative point for our generation but bronze on the other hand is a positive achievement and it will be appreciated in a very short amount of time" - José Calderón

Spain's players and coaching staff returned home from Slovenia with mixed feelings, after conquering bronze at EuroBasket 2013.

It was Spain's eighth medal in their last 11 major tournaments at senior level (EuroBasket, World Championship and Olympic Games), but there was some disappointment because the team had departed hoping to defend their European champions' title.

Achieving such a feat would have converted Spain into only the third nation in history to claim a EuroBasket 'three-peat', after the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

Head coach Juan Orenga was among the ones who saw the EuroBasket 2013 campaign in a positive light, within the context of continuity for Spanish basketball.

By claiming bronze in Slovenia, Orenga said, Spain had reached another historical milestone, as this summer they also stepped on the podium in all three men's youth European championships as well as conquering gold in EuroBasket Women and all three women's European youth categories - the first nation to ever do so.

"Fourth place would have been a negative point for our generation but bronze on the other hand is a positive achievement and it will be appreciated in a very short amount of time," point guard Jose Calderon said.

Marc Gasol meanwhile tried to put the EuroBasket into perspective and commented: "sometimes victories can cover flaws, so everything is relative."

"It's not like everything was perfect and we were always playing brilliantly before, and it's not like we did so bad this year," the big man added.

The reaction of the media in the country was also mixed, but definitely lukewarm.

One thing that the whole of Spain can agree upon though is that, next time around, they want to play in the gold medal game.

On Tuesday, Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) president José Luis Sáez told sports daily Marca that "Juan Antonio Orenga will be our head coach in the World Cup at home."

"I've always believed that projects should work on the basis of cycles and that is why we have to confide in our people and look at how we can progress."

After the coach got the vote of confidence, Juan Carlos Navarro, one of the two big Spanish stars that were absent from EuroBasket 2013, reiterated with renewed determination his intention to reinforce the national team as soon as possible.

"I preferred not to travel to Slovenia like Pau did (Pau Gasol was in Ljubljana watching Spain's final games at the EuroBasket) but I was communicating with my teammates every day," Navarro told Spanish daily El Pais.

7. Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain)
Juan Carlos Navarro (centre) and Pau Gasol (irght) were not here this time round due to injury but are both expected to be back on board next summer for the 2014 Basketball World Cup which Spain is hosting

"I watched all the games, you suffer a lot when you're out," added Navarro, who was the MVP of EuroBasket 2011.

"Winning a medal is not easy, even though we had almost turned it into a routine.

"You cannot always win and this bronze allows us to continue up there with the best and maintain our historic streak."

If anything, Spain's failure to deliver a third gold in Slovenia seems to have had a positive effect in coiling players and staff, in an effort to learn from whatever mistakes and launch a counter-attack to the top.

Navarro himself had the most telling reaction on Friday night, when Spain fell to France.

And it was exactly the reaction Spanish fans were hoping for from one of the heavyweights of this generation.

"We'll get them some other time," he wrote in a text message to president Sáez.

"The message sums up everyone's feelings," Navarro said.

"In a certain way, the [2014] World Cup has already started.

"There cannot be more commitment and more desire than what we have right now to be back on the team next year and do something good.

"It is an important challenge for us."

The charismatic shooting guard added that right now he is at 50-60% of physical form, after being submitted to an operation during the summer, and he hopes to recuperate fully once he joins his Barcelona teammates in preparations for the upcoming season, in the coming days.

"I had the operation so that I can return to be myself, to be able to feel well at these decisive moments without worrying about my body," Navarro explained.

"This was the objective, to be able to stay fully focused on the game and the rival, and the rest will come on its own."


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