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After routine wins against rank outsiders Iran and Egypt, Spain faced their first big test at the 2014 World Basketball Cup on Tuesday. With Navarro in the starting line-up, and with former Barça man Pau Gasol showing the kind of form that has made him one of the biggest names in the NBA, the host nation made light work of Brazil, who have FCB’s Marcelinho Huertas in the side. Huertas did manage 8 points and 3 rebounds, but that was not enough to prevent Spain from powering to an 82-63 win.
Juan Carlos Navarro made 10 points (2 threes), 4 rebounds and 4 assists in his 22 minutes, but fellow FCB man Álex Abrines’ contribution was somewhat lesser.
Spain now top Group A and are already assured a place in the knockout phase, and next face France on Wednesday night at 10.00 PM CET in Granada, the city that is hosting all of the games in that group. Earlier at the same venue, at 6.00 PM CET, Brazil face Serbia. The South Americans are 2-1 and despite the loss to Spain are still strongly poised for qualification
Bitter debut for Hezonja
The other team with FC Barcelona interest is Croatia. Things got off to an edgy start for the side featuring both Ante Tomic and Mario Hezonja when they needed overtime to beat the Philippines, who are in the finals for the first time since hosting it in 1978. Things picked up with an impressive win against the highly fancied Argentina, but on Tuesday it all went wrong as they slumped to shock 77-75 defeat to Senegal, ranked 41 in the world. Ante Tomic, with 14 points and 9 rebounds performed well, but the defensive intensity and physical might of the Africans got the better of the Eastern Europeans. Barça small forward Hezonja made his first appearance in a World Cup match, but his two points were small consolation for a disappointing debut.
Victory over Greece on Wednesday in Seville would guarantee Croatia qualify, but defeat would mean them going into a head-to-head battle on Thursday with Puerto Rico for a place in the last sixteen.
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