Navarro and Abrines (the latter not used this evening) are out of the World Cup. Spain may have been favourites to go all of the way to the final, and some pundits even fancied them for gold ahead of the mighty USA, but it’s what happens on court that ultimately counts, and against tonight they failed to rise to such high expectations. The scoring didn’t come. The rebounds didn’t come. What did come was France, and ‘Les Bleus’ made their physical superiority count.
When France went 2-11 ahead after the first few minutes, the Palacio de los Deportes in Madrid was already beginning to sense that things weren’t quite going to plan. But then Navarro led a 10-0 comeback and the first period ended 15-15. It looked like normal service had resumed, but the second period saw the French build another strong lead, and this time the Spaniards failed to find a response anywhere and found themselves seven behind at the break (28-35).
The third period saw a further twist in the plot when France only added a feeble seven to their score. Spain were finally in the lead, Navarro was once again the saviour, and a semi-final berth was back on the horizon. But the final period started with another powerful French streak, who scored 9 points to just 2 for Spain in the first five minutes. Pau Gasol really came into his own towards the end of the game, but try as they could, Spain couldn’t cut down the five-point deficit, and eventually an outstanding Heurtel stunned the home crowd to secure his team’s place in the final four.
Barça’s Navarro and Abrines had had their sights set on gold medals, but in the end they’ll be getting nothing following a night when just nothing wanted to go right for the hosts, who had seemed so impeccable thus far in the competition.
It was a day of double disappointment for Barça players, for the World Cup also came to an end for Marcelinho Huertas’ Brazil, who were soundly beaten 84-56 by Serbia in today’s other quarter final. Huertas made 4 points and provided 9 assists in his 23 minutes, but Serbia were much the better side on the day.
Wednesday’s results sadly mean that there are no FC Barcelona players left in the competition. Lithuania and the USA will meet in the first semi-final on Thursday, and Serbia and France will meet the day after.