The Spain-Brazil rivalry extends to almost every sport, and hoops is no exception. That's why Monday's battle between the two countries at the 2014 FIBA World Cup is set to be the first real marquee matchup of the tournament.
Both teams come in undefeated in their first two games in group play. The winner will take a commanding lead in the standings and clearly establish itself as the team to beat in Group A.
It should be competitive. The game can be seen on ESPN 3 and NBA TV.
Here's a look at the Group A Standings after two days of action, per FIBA.com.
|Group A||Games||Streak||Game Points||Points|
Spain appears to have the edge in this matchup, but here's the keys to victory for both squads.
Shoot the Three
Perhaps the only team in the FIBA World Cup that can match Spain's frontcourt is Team USA—and the jury is still out on that.
Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will make it very difficult for Brazil to score close to the basket. Brazil's Anderson Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter have the size to contend with the Gasol brothers and Ibaka, but not the overall skill.
None of the three Brazilian big men can be counted on to be a consistent scorer in the low post. Spain's frontcourt trio can all deliver the three B's: buckets, blocks and boards.
Because of that, it will be important for the Brazilians to make shots from the outside. Marcelinho Huertas, Leandrinho Barbosa and Marcelo Machado will need to make Spain pay for packing the lane.
Collectively, the trio has made seven of 15 shots from three. If they can continue to hit from deep, the Brazilians could make this one interesting.
Stay Out of Foul Trouble
While Spain is blessed with size and skills in the frontcourt, its backcourt is sub-par defensively. That could lead to the likes of Barbosa breaking down the Spanish perimeter defense off the dribble, getting into the lane and drawing fouls on Spain's bigs.
The Gasol brothers—and especially the shot-blocking-conscious Ibaka—will have to remember to play tall, and to contest shots without fouling.
If Brazil can get one or two of Spain's primary bigs out of the game, it will greatly improve its chances of pulling the upset.