Gasol drives battling Spain into Basketball World Cup final

Marc Gasol of Spain places a jump-shot over Australian players, from left, Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, during the FIBA Basketball World Cup semifinal at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing. (AP Photo)
Updated 13 September 2019

Gasol drives battling Spain into Basketball World Cup final

  • Gasol, the Toronto Raptors center, finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up late in a breathtaking game when his country needed him most
  • The Spaniard played a key role in the Raptors’ historic run to the NBA crown and knows that victory on Sunday will cap the perfect season

BEIJING: NBA champion Marc Gasol saved Spain on Friday as they battled back to beat Australia 95-88 after a second overtime period and reach the Basketball World Cup final.
They will face Argentina, who accounted for France in the other semi, in Sunday’s decider in Beijing.
A thrilling semifinal was 71-71 at the end of regulation time and the two sides could not be separated at the end of a nervy first overtime.
Finally, the 2006 world champions Spain jubilantly emerged after the Boomers appeared to run out of juice.
Sergio Llull hit two three-pointers in the second overtime for Spain to cap their comeback.
Gasol, the Toronto Raptors center, finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up late in a breathtaking game when his country needed him most.
“We came back, we stuck together through tough times, that means a lot,” said the 34-year-old, a three-time NBA All-Star.
The Spaniard played a key role in the Raptors’ historic run to the NBA crown and knows that victory on Sunday will cap the perfect season.
“It’s been great, I have been very fortunate,” he said.
“I knew that it would not be easy physically (going from the NBA Finals to the World Cup) but it’s definitely worth it.
“Not because of the final but passing along those values to the team. It’s our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation (of the Spain team).”
Ricky Rubio was also pivotal once more for Spain with 19 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Red-hot Patty Mills was unfortunate to be on the losing side, leading Australia with 34 points.
The Australians, who had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in 11 previous World Cups, had the whiff of revenge in their nostrils — and a first final.
Spain edged the Boomers 89-88 in the bronze-medal match at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Australians had waited three long years to get their own back.
In San Antonio Spurs livewire Mills they had one of the players of the World Cup and his three-pointer midway through the second quarter put Australia 27-22 in front.
The in-form guard pulled off the same trick with 88 seconds left on the clock in the second quarter to give Australia a 37-32 advantage at the break.
But Spain slashed the lead to four points going into the fourth quarter and then just two points with 3:44 left.
Spain were just one point behind with 28 seconds to run and they had the momentum. Gasol, nerves of steel, nailed two free throws to put Spain up 71-70.
Mills then made one free throw with four seconds left but missed the other and the match was level at the end of regulation time.
Despite the crushing disappointment, Australia will need to raise themselves for Sunday’s bronze-medal match and this is still their best World Cup performance.
Coach Andrej Lemanis called it “a hell of a game of basketball and fun to be involved with.”
“Tough to lose, no doubt, it comes down to a couple of plays here and there,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we had chances to win the game, we had every opportunity to win the game.”


Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”