FIBA World Cup Will meet Spain on Sunday

Luis Scola trying to score with Rudy Gobert and Louis Labeyrie looking...
Luis Scola trying to score with Rudy Gobert and Louis Labeyrie looking to block his shot.

The nations in the FIBA World Cup final are now confirmed as Argentina and Spain will face off on Sunday, with El Alma Argentina having won every quarter of their clash with France on their way to an 80-66 victory.

Both Argentina and France caused upsets by knocking out Serbia and the United States respectively in the quarter-finals, but France really seemed to struggle with Argentina’s outside game, which is a complete contrast from what they faced against the U.S.

On Wednesday, the presence of Rudy Gobert meant that the U.S. were forced into shooting from mid-range and from the three-point line, and it was only Donovan Mitchell who stepped up from deep.

The thing with Argentina, though, is that they have multiple three-point shooters and do not play too much inside, so Gobert was unable to put his imprint on the game defensively, while he was restricted to just three points on the other end.

One of the notable things to have occurred from this World Cup is that the 39-year-old Luis Scola, a nine-year NBA veteran who now plies his trade in the CBA, has been able to turn back the clock and show that he can still play at an elite level.

At half-time against France, he had already recorded a double-double and by the final whistle, he had racked up 28 points and 13 rebounds to go with two assists; his ability to play in the post, around the rim and on the perimeter makes him a real threat. Poignantly, it was Scola who seemed to end France’s hopes of reaching the final as he hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Argentina a 15-point lead with just a few minutes remaining.

There were a plethora of stars on show for both nations, but France’s NBA quartet of Gobert, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier and Frank Ntilikina were not enough to lead Les Bleus to victory.

Instead, it was Scola and four Liga Endesa players who showed that there is plenty of talent outside of the United States; Facundo Campazzo, Gabriel Deck, Luca Vildoza and Nico Laprovittola did not fear the established names and instead continued to play their team-orientated, perimeter game, and that has seen them book a place in the World Cup final.

What will disappoint France most is the way in which they should have seen this coming. The U.S. had no real go-to shooter, with Mitchell having to assume that mantle, but Argentina were filled with shooters. Yet, France’s game plan appeared to be similar to the U.S. match.

Nando de Colo, one of the EuroLeague’s best guards, was restricted to 11 points, with Ntilikina and Fournier scoring 16 apiece, but they sorely missed the 29 points that Gobert was able to rack up against the U.S. Defensively, too, France had the athletic advantage, but they were often found in the wrong position, too far away from the three-point line, and Argentina punished them.

Both sides have been on a journey in this World Cup, with that win over the U.S. likely to never be forgotten by many back in France, but it is Argentina who will continue on into the final round of the tournament. This will be their third appearance in the World Cup final, having beaten the U.S. 64-50 in 1950 before losing 84-77 in overtime to Yugoslavia.

So, with several Spain-based players in their squad, they will be looking to use that to their advantage, while Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez will know more about the likes of Campazzo and Deck more than anyone else as they all play together at Real Madrid. On Sunday, the world champion will be crowned when Argentina and Spain meet at LeSports Center in Beijing.

Geoff Gillingham