Spain will face Croatia when they kick off their campaign in the 2016 Rio Olympics basketball men’s competition. The two European powerhouse teams will collide on Sunday at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro.
Spain are considered the biggest threats to USA Basketball, who are the two-time defending Olympic champion. They are parading a star-studded roster, considered as one of the deepest lineups in the tournament.
Veteran center Pau Gasol will once again look to lead Spain to a podium finish this year. But this time, he is hoping that they will take home the gold after losing to USA in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics finals. He quickly added, though, that it is easier said than done.
“We have to do a lot of things right,” Gasol said via Rio 2016 website. “We have to work and beat a lot of great teams in order to have a chance to get there. So we’ve just got to grow as the tournament advances and deserve to get there.”
Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, will not play in Rio due to a foot injury. But the older Gasol will still have a strong supporting cast, including Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez and Willy Hernangomez.
On the other hand, Croatia will look to pick up from where they left off during their successful campaign in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin, Italy. Croatia booked one of the three wild card tickets after beating host Italy in the final of the Olympic qualifier.
Brooklyn Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic will be the man to watch for Croatia along with NBA players Mario Hezonja of the Orlando Magic and Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers. Veteran guard Krunoslav Simon is hoping they can reach the medal round but they still need to focus first on Spain.
“They’re one of the biggest favorites to get a medal,” Simon said of Spain via FIBA.com. “But we know them well, they’re all great players that play in great teams. But we’re not afraid.”
Spain are expected to cruise to a victory by at least 10 points. Fans can catch the action starting 6 p.m. ET through online live stream on NBC Olympics page. The complete 2016 Rio Olympics basketball schedule can be viewed here.
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