The Serbian women’s national team’s defeat to the USA still leaves them searching for their first win at Rio 2016. And with Spain’s men currently at 0-2, it hasn’t been the greatest of beginnings for Europe’s two reigning Eurobasket champions.
But all is not lost for both sides as we reach the half-way point of the Olympic basketball tournament group stages. Spain’s men have a good chance to scoop their first win when they play Nigeria and likewise, Serbia lock horns with China as they now have to win their remaining contests in order to stand a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Also, while Serbia’s women are making their Olympic bow, and are playing against teams from different continents with contacting playing styles. Spain, especially under coach Sergio Scariolo, are notoriously slow starters. They will be looking for a solid, all-round performance against a weakened Nigeria side, as they continue to cope without Barcelona big man Shane Lawal.
After failing to capture a possible third straight Eurobasket crown in Slovenia in 2013 and being dumped out of their home World Cup, a year later – both to France – the Spanish returned to winning ways at Eurobasket 2015 as Pau Gasol guided them to an automatic place at the Rio Olympics and he helped himself to the MVP award as well.
But before they reached the dizzy heights that they are usually accustomed to, Spain did not have things their own way at the Eurobasket group stages in Berlin.
Scariolo’s side were comfortably beaten 90-80 by pre-tournament favourites Serbia in the opening game of Eurobasket and despite bouncing back against Turkey, were easily defeated by Italy 105-98, which required them to win their last two games of the group in order to qualify.
They beat Eurobasket debutants Iceland and needed an assist by Germany’s Dennis Schröder, who missed a free-throw with three seconds on the clock, which gave the Spanish a narrow 77-76 win.
The rest, as they say, is history.
At the London Olympics, four years ago, Scariolo’s last tournament, Spain, with a strong roster only finished the group stages 3-2 before going on to win silver.
Scariolo’s rotation of his squad in order to rest certain players is evident as qualification is their top priority, not necessary the position – but admittedly – this year he is cutting it fine.
The Eurobasket Women champions from 2015 have been struggling to keep up at time with the pace of certain teams that they have faced, and with three defeats from three games they face a tough road to advance.
Their maiden Olympic adventure though was bound to be difficult as they go up against against the other top teams on the continent, including the seemingly invincible USA.
The experience will certainly benefit the talented Serbians in the future, as they look likely to compete for podium finishes at future Eurobaskets and FIBA World Cup, plus they’re not out of the running yet.