Perfect Spain and Italy close in on Euro 2020

Spain have all but qualified. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Perfect Spain and Italy close in on Euro 2020

  • “Yes, it’s almost done, but not yet mathematically,” said Spain coach Robert Moreno

PARIS: Spain and Italy moved to within touching distance of Euro 2020 on Sunday after respective wins over the Faroe Islands and Finland saw them maintain their perfect qualifying records for next year’s tournament.
Rodrigo and Paco Alcacer both scored twice in an easy 4-0 victory over the Faroes in Gijon, on a night when captain Sergio Ramos equalled Iker Casillas’ national appearances record with his 167th cap.
It was their sixth win from six in Group F and put them on a perfect 18 points, seven clear of Sweden, who drew 1-1 with Scandinavian rivals Norway.
With two teams qualifying from the group, they are also a further point ahead of third-placed Romania following their 1-0 win over Malta.
“Yes, it’s almost done, but not yet mathematically,” said Spain coach Robert Moreno when asked if his team had all but qualified with four games to spare.
“We must grow as a team by winning all our matches. Of course, the final goal is qualification, but what matters is that the team has the feeling of doing things well.”
The evening began in a somber fashion with a minute’s silence in tribute to former coach Luis Enrique’s daughter Xana, who died of bone cancer aged nine last week.
Moreno, who took over as boss from Enrique when the ex-Barcelona coach stepped down in June, made 10 changes to the starting XI which won 2-1 in Romania on Thursday, with only Ramos keeping his place.
However the hosts wasted little time in taking the lead, Rodrigo tapping in despite suspicions of offside in the 13th minute following a defensive mix-up, and the Valencia striker put the game to bed five minutes after the break when he lashed a vicious left-footed strike into the top corner with the aid of a deflection.
Substitute Alcacer put the cherry on the cake with two goals in the dying moments, first slotting home from Thiago Alcantara’s low cross in the 90th minute before flicking in a near-post header to score his third Spain goal this week.
Italy also kept their 100 percent record thanks to Jorginho’s late penalty, which fired Italy their own sixth straight win, 2-1 at nearest rivals Finland.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho’s 79th-minute winner in Tampere sent Roberto Mancini’s side six points clear of the second-placed Finns in Group J, after in-form Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki had levelled Ciro Immobile’s first Italy goal in two years with a penalty of his own six minutes before.
“I was feeling the pressure of not scoring with this jersey,” said Lazio striker Immobile.
“But I knew the time would come. Tonight wasn’t easy, but we did well. We are happy, we are starting again after the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup.”
Four-time world champions Italy are flying high with a maximum 18 points with four qualifying games to play, nine points ahead of third-placed Armenia despite their thrilling 4-2 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier on Sunday.
They could now secure qualification for the tournament, which kicks off in Rome next June, against Greece or Liechtenstein — who surprisingly drew 1-1 in Athens — next month.
Switzerland kept their hopes of qualifying from Group D alive with a 4-0 thumping of Gibraltar, who are yet to pick up a point or score a goal after five games.
Goals from Denis Zakaria, Admir Mehmedi, Ricardo Rodriguez and Mario Gavranovic were enough to move Vladimir Petkovic’s side to within three points of leaders Ireland.
They are also just a point away from second-placed Denmark, who could only manage a goalless draw at Georgia, and have a game in hand on both their rivals.
The Swiss’ fate could be decided in the next round of games next month, when they travel to Copenhagen to take on the Danes before hosting Ireland in Geneva.


Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

Updated 16 September 2019

Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

  • Toronto Raptors center Mark Gasol becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year

 

BEIJING: Three-time All-Star Marc Gasol became only the second man to win an NBA crown and the World Cup in the same year after Spain brushed aside Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Spain, who survived double overtime against Australia to reach the final, led throughout in Beijing to win international basketball’s biggest prize a second time.

The only previous occasion was in 2006 with the two Gasol brothers, Marc and older sibling Pau, on the team.

Pau did not feature in China because of injury.

The latest triumph was particularly sweet for the 34-year-old center Gasol, who three months ago also played a key part in the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title.

Gasol, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, joins Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the US and Los Angeles Lakers.

Surprise finalists Argentina had not triumphed since they hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1950.

As a contest, the final was over by the fourth quarter — although the Argentines did rally belatedly to reduce Spain’s previously mighty lead.

Fans of both teams had made it feel more like a football match, decked out in their national colors, chanting loudly and refusing to sit down.

Spain, for whom Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns has been one of the leading players of the tournament in China, surged into a 14-2 lead.

In front of a capacity crowd, Argentina’s 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola could not escape the attentions of Pierre Oriola.

Led by their slick-haired Italian coach Sergio Scariolo, Spain were up 21-14 going into the second quarter and increased their advantage to 43-31 at halftime.

With Rubio prominent, drilling 20 points, Spain never looked like surrendering their lead, repeatedly thwarting Argentina’s suffocated offense.

France roared back after halftime to defeat Australia 67-59 and claim a second World Cup bronze in a row — and extend the Boomers’ long wait for a major medal.

Turkish-based guard Nando De Colo led all scorers with 19 points for France and Nicolas Batum had nine points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals.

The French, one of the tallest teams at the tournament, defeated reigning two-time holders the US in the quarterfinals, but then lost heavily to Argentina.

“For us it’s something very, very special and important we did it after a very difficult first half,” French coach Vincent Collet said.

“Many teams could have given up, even easy shots we were missing in the first half.

“We started to move the ball better in the second half and that’s why we won this game.”

It was hard on Australia, who similarly led for long periods in their semifinal against Spain.

It is still the best finish for the Boomers, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals at 11 previous World Cups, but they are yet to claim a medal at the worlds or Olympics.

Deposed champions the US, who were missing their elite names, finished seventh, their lowest position in tournament history.

They did, at least, qualify to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo next summer. With 32 teams, this was the biggest Basketball World Cup ever.

The next one will be in 2023 in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.