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Sergio Hernández: ''Qualifying to the World Cup isn't something you do every day''
LA RIOJA (FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers 2019) — The Argentines sealed the deal to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China after achieving two victories. The first one, against the United States; and the second one, against Mexico, a team that couldn't defeat Panama or Argentina in the fifth stage of the Americas Qualifiers.
With two dates ahead in February, Argentina are the sole Group E leaders, with 19 points (9-1) and Mexico were left in the last place, with 13 points (3-7).
“Today we deserve praise and not criticism. We didn’t win because the rivals were bad, but because we played well. It's fair that that’s the analysis of the day. I've been enjoying all windows very much, but even more so those we have won,” said Luis Scola, captain of the Argentine team, and who also was the greatest scorer with 22 points (3/4 in 3 Pts, 6/11 in 2 Pts and 1/2 in free throws), besides contributing 9 rebounds and 3 assists and continue to lead his team’s stats with 16.7 average points per game and 8.1 rebounds in the 10 games of these qualifiers. Besides, he’s fourth in the general positions, with 57.7 points per game, behind Franco Cruz (MEX), Walter Hodge (ISV) and Esteban Batista (URU).
“Scola never ceases to amaze me. Every day he teaches us how to behave at the high-performance level. He’s a person that has been a very good influence on this group and the national team. We're very lucky to have a captain like Luis,” said coach Sergio Hernández.
He talked about their victory against Mexico, which bought them the ticket to China 2019: “I was a bit more annoying than I usually am with this team. I didn't like how we were playing, and these games are dangerous. But we recovered our idea, we were aggressive, and we played 5 ferocious minutes. I'm twice happy. First, because we qualified this team to China and second, because we showed high-flying passes. We’ll try to go to the remaining window with the best we can and have available at the moment.”
“It’s obvious that you have to admire them a bit, and Luis Scola as well. I think that they speak for themselves. He's one of the most important players at a national team level and we're proud to having the opportunity of playing and coaching a team against him,” said Iván Déniz, Mexico’s coach.
The team led by Sergio Hernández knew how to adapt to the new competitions system and got their World Cup ticket three dates before the end of the Qualifiers. Meanwhile, Iván Déniz’s men didn't have a happy ending, but they aspire to build a young team for the future to cover their veterans’ absences.
“I'm convinced that we have a brilliant generation that's coming up for the future. There are players that are 18 to 23 and have a very high level, and need the opportunity, but above all, find people that trust in them. I think that it's clear that qualifying is very complicated. Argentina, play against whom they play, is one of the best national teams,” said the Spanish coach who took the reins for these Qualifiers.
“The main thing is that the team won, and the qualification was achieved, which was the objective. When the team is in this shape, individual performances are easier to improve. We built a good group with clear ideas and roles and we hope to continue in that road,” said Argentine center Marcos Delía to FIBA. He scored 13 points (6/8 in 2 Pts, 1/2 in 3 Pts), 2 rebounds and 2 assists against Mexico and has played 33 official games against the National Team. “It's hard to build a good group and we did it. This has its merits and we deserve to enjoy it,” was the center’s analysis after obtaining his ticket to China 2019.
Like this, Argentina will face their fourteenth participation in a World Cup since 1950, but before that they’ll play the two last games in the end of the Americas Qualifiers of February. First, against Puerto Rico; and then, against the United States, both as visitors. Meanwhile, Mexico remain at 5 appearances since 1959, the last one being in Spain 2014.