25 August, 2023
10 September
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Pau Gasol: ''USA is always the team to beat''

LOS ANGELES (USA) - There is no such thing an easy path to the Final Phase of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

That is the opinion of Spanish legend Pau Gasol, who is a Global Ambassador for this summer's World Cup.

The 32-team tournament will be held in Manila, Okinawa and Jakarta, and Gasol will, not surprisingly, be cheering on Spain - the country he led to the title 17 years ago in Japan.

Pau Gasol played at three World Cups, including in 2014 when the event was held in his country, Spain

Spain, who were drawn in Group G with Brazil, Iran and Cote d'Ivoire, will play their games in Jakarta, Indonesia. If they make it past the Second Round, they will advance to the Final Phase in Manila.

Having won the 2019 World Cup in Beijing, and prevailed at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in Berlin, Spain will be one of the contenders for the Naismith Trophy this year.

After Saturday's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Draw presented by Wanda in Manila, Gasol sounded a note of caution for Spain, but also optimism.

"I think the draw was a good draw for Spain," he said to FIBA.basketball from Los Angeles. "That doesn't mean it's a guarantee, clear path, or easier path. I think in a World Cup you have to compete, you have to be ready from the get-go and at the end of the day, move on to the next phase."

"You're going to have to get through some tough teams."

"So, again, I’m excited to see how our team responds, how it plays. But I like the chances because of our identity, our nature, and because we know what it takes."

Spain have the added advantage of coach Sergio Scariolo, who has led the team to four EuroBasket crowns (2009, 2011, 2015, 2022), a EuroBasket bronze (2017), Olympic silver (2012) and bronze (2016) medals, and the 2019 World Cup.

"No matter who is there, we have Sergio, who continues to be a strong pillar for our national team and the World Cup," Gasol said.

"It's (World Cup) always important for our country, just like it is for other countries, but it's exciting for us and I'm sure we're going to do pretty well."


Gasol, who also played at the 2002 and 2014 World Cups, expects a competitive tournament.

"[USA] always is the team to beat in every championship they participate because of the level of their talent," he said.

"But history has shown us how less, potentially on paper, talented teams, by playing together, by competing, playing the right way, you can overcome that and win a championship and become world champions.

"I'm excited to see how this one will play out. I'm sure it's going to be a very fun championship and hopefully a historical championship in many regards. I'll be following closely. I'll be for sure, at the last part, in Manila, and I'll be rooting for Spain, No. 1 team in the world."

 "We have Sergio, who continues to be a strong pillar for our national team and the World Cup" - Gasol

In Gasol's third and last World Cup experience as a player, he was able to compete in front of his own country's fans, in Granada and then Madrid.

While France upset Spain in the Quarter-Finals, Gasol nevertheless made the All-Star Five and remembers how special it was.

"I'm excited for the home teams, truthfully," he said. "I've seen, especially the Philippines, the level of love and passion for the game, how high it is.

"I'm really excited to see that and experience that myself. I hope they continue to excite their country with the game.

"With Japan, we saw it in the Olympics in Tokyo, they can play at a high level. They obviously have some good players. They continue to develop their game, their league. I'm excited."

Because the World Cup is being held in three countries, it's incredible exposure for the sport. 

"I love to see the game grow, I love to see the game thrive, get more kids, more people excited about the game, enjoying the game, more countries having a chance, and getting better and getting stronger. That's how the trend has been. It's great to see."