Qualified Team Focus - Spain: The World Champions are back
MIES (Switzerland) - The Draw of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be held in Manila, The Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
We'll start today with the number one team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, World Champions in 2019 and EuroBasket winners in 2022, Spain.
The reigning World Champions are heading back to Asia to defend their crown 👑🇪🇸#FIBAWC x #WinForEspana pic.twitter.com/gk6NUtd1Oh— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) November 14, 2022
How did they qualify
Spain qualified for the World Cup with one window to go as head coach Sergio Scariolo had a core of five players play at least eight of the 10 games. Despite having so many players, Scariolo did a solid job of maintaining Spain’s playing style, ranking second in scoring (84.9 ppg), first in assists (21.9) and second in field goal shooting (49.1 percent).
Spain created a balanced attack with six different players leading the team in scoring over the course of the qualification. Xabi Lopez-Arostegui was top scorer four times while Jaime Fernandez and Dario Brizuela both led the Iberians in scoring twice. Fernandez produced the individual highlight of the qualification as he came off the bench against Italy in November 2022 to score 28 points - with 4 three-pointers and 12-of-15 free throws - in a thrilling 88-84 overtime win including 11 points in overtime.
Jaime Fernandez against Italy on November 2022
Spain's 9-1 record looked dominant but there was plenty of drama - especially after they reeled off their first four wins. The reigning world champs drew a capacity crowd of 8,500 fans came out to open Georgia’s new arena in Tbilisi on July 4, 2022 against the reigning world champs. The game saw 22 lead changes and went to overtime with Georgia stunning Spain 82-76.
Spain battled through another tough game three days later with seven points being the biggest lead in a 77-76 win over Ukraine, who were hosting the game in Riga, Latvia.
The November 2022 window featured the thrilling overtime win in Italy, which was witnessed by a capacity crowd of 10,000 in Pesaro. And Spain locked up their spot in the 2023 World Cup in the final game in the window - a tough game against Netherlands which had Spain up just 61-59 after three quarters.
Best result at the World Cup
Spain are one of five countries to have won the World Cup on multiple occasions. Spain’s first title came in 2006 in Japan - knocking off Argentina in the Semi-Finals and then Greece in the Final.
The second trophy came in 2019 in China, where they needed double overtime to defeat Australia in the Semi-Finals and then rolled past Argentina in the Final. The other countries to win multiple World Cups are United States (5), Yugoslavia (5), Soviet Union (3) and Brazil (2).
Spain were World Champions in 2006
Last World Cup appearances
Spain will be playing in the World Cup for the 13th time and 11th in a row. They have reached at least the Quarter-Finals in the last six tournaments since 1998.
The two times Spain won in the last eight stage - in 2006 versus Lithuania and 2019 against Poland - they won the title. In 1998, Spain fell to Greece; and it was to Germany in 2002. The 2010 loss was on a heart-breaking long three-pointer from Milos Teodosic in a 92-89 loss to Serbia as the reigning champs. And in 2014, the Spaniards crashed to France in the Quarters as host team.
Spain of course returned to the world summit in 2019, going undefeated in the two group stages - including beating Italy and Serbia in the Second Round - before defeating Poland in the Quarter-Finals, Australia in double-overtime in the Semi-Finals and Argentina 95-75 in the Final.
Players to Watch
Spain won the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 with a young and inexperienced team and those players will be that much better should they play this summer. The leaders for Sergio Scariolo will definitely be 2019 World Cup winning MVP Ricky Rubio as well as Willy and Juancho Hernangomez.
Ricky Rubio was MVP in 2019. He is healthy again in 2023. Will he play in the WC 2023?
If Rudy Fernandez is healthy he will have a spot while other top players to watch are Santi Aldama, Usman Garuba, Alberto Abalde, Alex Abrines and Victor Claver. After their performances in the European Qualifiers and FIBA EuroBasket 2022, it would seem that Xabi Lopez-Arostegui, Jaime Fernandez, Dario Brizuela and Alberto Diaz will challenge for tickets to Asia. Other questions include will Lorenzo Brown stay on board and will Scariolo bring teenager Juan Nunez?