Spain will look to start off its action in the 2014 FIBA World Cup on home soil with a bang Sunday in its group-stage game against Egypt in Granada.
The host country has much more than home-court advantage going for it heading into the tournament. Led by a stacked frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, the Spanish pose a mismatch for virtually any team they'll face throughout international play. The team also features strong guard play from Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio.
Egypt makes its first trip to the FIBA World Cup since 1994 but will have to open up with an international juggernaut. Let's break down everything you need to know about the matchup.
Where: Palacio Municipal de Deportes de Granada; Granada, Spain
When: Sunday, August 31
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV/Live Stream: WatchESPN
Note: Rosters can be found at FIBA.com
Spain doesn't enter the FIBA World Cup as the favorite, but it certainly feels like it early on with expectations of a gold medal.
As usual, Team USA has the oddsmakers' hearts as favorites with 1-2 odds, according to Odds Shark, but Spain comes in not far behind with 8-5 chances of winning it all. Just like the 2012 Olympics, the Spanish should have no problem taking care of business early on and getting to the inevitable final against the U.S.
With the Gasol brothers and Ibaka giving Spain three of the NBA's best post players, the trio can be a handful for even the most talented of national teams. Not only are each of the big men more than capable of dominating physically, but having three along with some young bigs in the fold allows everyone to stay fresh.
Marc Gasol was one who has especially been turning heads, and brother Pau wasn't shy to talk up his brother as well as young big man Felipe Reyes to Marca.
"I don't think anyone is surprised by Marc's form," Pau Gasol said, per Marca. "His performances are nothing new to NBA fans. He's one of the best centres in the world. I'm still surprised by Felipe [Reyes], whom I don't get to see very often. One day he'll have to explain the secret behind his rebounds."
Expect Spain to take a sense of urgency into Sunday's game, wanting to start the tournament strong and getting on top of Group A. The group is noticeably tough with France, Serbia and Brazil as potential threats. Spain will likely have to win the group to stay on different sides of the bracket from the USA.
Their opponent doesn't feature any players with NBA experience, but Egypt won't be short on spirit entering Friday's game. It is the nation's first appearance in the FIBA World Cup since 1994, and it is coming off a strong runner-up finish in the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship.
They are led by 36-year-old captain and point guard Wael Badr, but most of the team's standouts are youngsters from Egypt's professional league.
Still, they're ready for the challenge, per FIBA.com:
(We're) a young team with big dreams. Our team consists of a group of young players, who might miss the world stage experience factor, but we are full of big dreams and hope to achieve a lot more with upcoming championships.
As the only Arab nation in the FIBA World Cup, Egypt will be hungry to represent its region well, and a new-look roster may breed some success later on in the group stage against some more vulnerable teams.
But it's obvious that Spain's roster entering its hosted World Cup is nowhere near vulnerable.
The sheer advantage down low should tilt things heavily in Spain's favor, and Egypt's backcourt will be no match for the elusiveness and penetration of Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez. Strong performances from Egypt's offensive leaders could keep things interesting, but a wealth of quality depth will simply wear out the underdog by the third and fourth quarters.
Spain shouldn't lose in the group stage, and it might not lose period in this tournament—a scary thought for Team USA fans.
Prediction: Spain wins, 90-66
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