25 August, 2023
10 September
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Do-or-die: Three reasons for Spain, three reasons for Canada

JAKARTA (Indonesia) - With a Quarter-Finals spot on the line, Spain and Canada face off in a crucial Second Round clash at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

Both teams seek redemption after recent upsets. Spain fell to Latvia, 74-69, and Canada suffered a tough loss to Brazil, 69-65 - which means we will lose one of the title contenders before the Final Phase.

So, let's take a closer look at the matchup and some of the pivotal factors on both sides.

Three reasons why Spain will advance:

This is what Spain do

When the spotlight burns brightest, Spain's national basketball team tends to shine the most. This is a squad that thrives on the grandeur of international basketball. Their performance at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 serves as a testament to their ability to rise to the occasion and they won't be relinquishing their World Cup crown lightly.

Their 11-game win streak at the World Cup was ended by Latvia, on Friday, but Spain have not lost consecutive games in the competition since 1990. They just know how to respond. Underestimate them at your peril.



The EuroBasket MVP

Furthermore, the Spanish team boasts Willy Hernangomez, a big man with remarkable skills. The 29-year-old is enjoying a strong World Cup campaign with an impressive 16.5 points per game - a significant improvement from his 2019 numbers as he backs up being the MVP at FIBA EuroBasket 2022.

His ability to score and protect the rim could prove pivotal in this matchup, and don't overlook younger brother Juancho Hernangomez who can take over a game at any moment - just look back on that EuroBasket Final from a year ago.

"I always say that I think it was more a trophy for the team than only a player," Hernangomez said of his EuroBasket MVP award. "This is a team sport and we are 12 guys. I think for me, we have the same mentality to compete to be 120-percent every game and whatever coach Scariolo needs me to do, I’m ready to do it." 

The master

Lastly, one of Spain's most potent assets is their revered head coach, Sergio Scariolo. With years of experience at the international level, Scariolo has a proven track record of leading his team to success in high-pressure situations. His tactical acumen and ability to instill confidence in his players make him a valuable asset in any tournament. The process is proven, and La Familia is always growing.

Three reasons Canada will advance:

The Shai show

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has looked every inch a superstar in Jakarta. The dynamic guard has been a force to be reckoned with in the tournament - averaging just over 22 points per game across four appearances so far with an average efficiency of 26.3.

His scoring ability and court vision make him a constant threat, capable of turning the tide of any game with a single play. In a matchup against Spain's guards, Gilgeous-Alexander should stand out as the best, though RJ Barrett has yet to really explode in this tournament yet, and this would be the perfect time.

SGA has scored more than 20 points in a game on three occasions so far at this World Cup. For context, only one Canadian has had more such games in the last 30 years - Carl Ridd did it in four games at the 1954 tournament.

Versatility and depth

Canada's frontcourt also presents a formidable challenge. Experienced big men like Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk possess the physicality and skill to match up with Spain's Hernangomez brothers and Usman Garuba. Others like Dillon Brooks and Lu Dort will need to bring the defensive intensity as energy providers.

In a game where every rebound and contested shot matters, Canada's interior presence could be a game-changer - especially with Spain locked into containing SGA. Canada are averaging 97.3 points per game in Jakarta, but were held to 65 against Brazil - in fact, they have lost their last 15 World Cup games when scoring less than 80 points.



The newcomer

Jordi Fernandez took over the reins from Nick Nurse in the lead up to the World Cup, and while this is a largely inexperience roster when it comes to World Cup play, Canada were quick to settle with a statement of intent in the First Round - and now this is the challenge in responding to adversity where the coaching staff will play a vital role.

The Spaniard's familiarity with coach Scariolo adds an intriguing dimension to this matchup. Fernandez's insights into Scariolo's strategies and tendencies could prove invaluable in crafting a winning game plan - he was previously head coach of Spain's Under-19 Men's team in 2013.

Of course, there's another huge clash in Group L on Sunday as Brazil and Latvia compete for the other spot through to the Quarter-Finals. Both sides kept their hopes alive with impressive upset victories and are rewarded with a straight shootout for an unexpected last eight appearance.