RIGA (EuroBasket Women) - Life could hardly be better for the passionate basketball supporters of Spain’s national teams.
The country was recently named as hosts of the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Men, and national team star Pau Gasol last weekend became the first Spaniard to win an NBA title when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the Finals.
Now Spain have qualified for the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic.
Silver medalists at the EuroBasket Women 2007 in Italy and fifth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Spain booked their place for next year’s big event by grinding out a 61-42 triumph over Italy on Thursday.
The result put Evaristo Perez’s team in the Semi-Finals of the EuroBasket Women in Latvia where they will take on the winner of Russia’s Quarter-Final clash with Latvia on Thursday.
"To have qualified for the FIBA World Championship is the best and the most beautiful thing,” said coach Perez.
"We knew that this game was not going to be pretty and they never are because this is the game between the good and the bad, heaven and hell.
“You have to win it at any cost. There's a term that I like and it's ‘one needs to know how to win playing badly and you need to have a certain talent for that’. We have played badly and I'm not satisfied with that. But we won."
Italy led for much of the game but Spain got timely contributions from the likes of 19-year-old Alba Torrens and 20-year-old Laura Nicholls.
Nicholls had nine points and four rebounds while Torrens scored eight, hauled in seven boards and came up with a steal.
Spain are now just a win away from capturing a medal at a EuroBasket Women – something they have done at every event since 2001.
“Despite the fact that years go by and you see national teams up in certain stages and down in other periods, things go up and down, things come and go, but Spain always maintains itself up there competing at the highest level and fighting for medals and this is a great merit for the federation,” Perez said.