|01 August 2013|
|"No one [of us] said that we are not going to Slovenia for the gold medal" says point guard Ricky Rubio |
For the first time since 2007, Spain are embarking on a EuroBasket campaign without everyone in Europe considering them as the undisputed favourites to win the competition.
Some key players on 'La Roja' however beg to differ.
Point guard Ricky Rubio, first of all, made crystal clear on the day of the presentation of the Spanish squad to the media that the aim of the two-time European champions is to achieve a historic 'three-peat' at EuroBasket 2013, notwithstanding the absences of Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes or Serge Ibaka.
"No one [of us] has said that we are not going to Slovenia for the gold medal," Rubio declared.
"The national team we have is of a great level [despite the absences].
"Perhaps we are not considered the favourites as in previous years but we are still in the group of contenders for the medals, and why not for gold.
"We are going there to win.
"I feel very motivated, last year I followed the team from a distance with envy and that experience gives me more strength to fight for a goal [that I consider] achievable.
"I missed my friends last summer, and now here we are together again."
Rubio was still recovering last summer from a torn ACL injury he sustained during his rookie NBA season and could not participate at the London Olympics, were Spain claimed silver after losing in a thrilling final against the USA.
"The national team has been playing in the same way for a lot of years, it has an identity, a style of play," fellow point guard José Manuel Calderón commented.
"We have to follow the same style and reach, if we can, until the final game at the EuroBasket."
|Ready to lead the new-look Spain team: Rudy Fernandez |
In the absence of habitual captain Navarro, as well as Gasol and Reyes, who would be the next in line as the most senior players in the team, Real Madrid star Rudy Fernandez will be the captain of the Spanish team in Slovenia.
The charismatic winger already has 147 international caps, but he he was quick to dismiss any talk of him being the next leader of the national team.
"Here there is only one captain, and that is Juan Carlos [Navarro]," he said.
"We are going to try to compete, all 15 of us that are here are going to step up and make an effort to be proclaimed champions one more time."
Veteran forward Alex Mumbru, who was proclaimed World and European champion with Spain, will return to the national team in Slovenia, after a three-year absence.
"Spain is the team to beat," Mumbru offered.
"We are the reigning European champions, so for sure we are the team that any other side will need to defeat.
"I think we are for sure one of the favourites, along with some other strong teams."
Power forward Pablo Aguilar on the other hand is to make his first ever appearance with the senior national team at EuroBasket 2013, and was asked to evaluate Spain's First Round group, which includes Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Georgia and the Czech Republic.
"The group is not easy, there are some very good national teams and the truth is that any team that reaches the EuroBasket has great players, who play either in the best European leagues or in the NBA.
"It goes without saying that not a single game will be easy at the EuroBasket."