Spain began the mission of sealing the ticket to Tokyo with Silvia Dominguez, Laia Palau, Alba Torrens, Laura Gil and Laura Nicholls in an initial quintet of maximum reliability and experience to melt South Korea. With five of the pillars, of “the legs of the table”, as Mondelo calls them, which, together with Marta Xargay and the injured Anna Cruz, have cemented the memorable journey of the seven consecutive medals of the women’s team (European gold in 2013, world silver in 2014, European bronze in 2015, Olympic silver in 2016, European gold in 2017, world bronze in 2018 and European gold in 2019). Another key piece was missing, Astou Ndour, MVP of the past Eurobasket and still in the period of set-up after going through the operating room, but, in return, he returned to the Alba Torrens team after missing the continental conquest of Belgrade for his prolonged Calvary with the right knee.
Despite being European champions, changes in the configuration of the FIBA calendar mean that Mondelo multi-medalists have to go through the pre-Olympic toll in search of what would be the fifth Games in their history, with Barcelona 1992 (fifth place) , Athens 2004 (sixth place), Beijing 2008 (fifth place) and Rio 2016 (silver) as precedents. And, focused on the mission, Spain set out to mark territory in the Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in Belgrade from the initial jump. First, with Laura Gil and Laura Nicholls’ struggle in the painting; later, with the correct scorer of Leo Rodríguez (12 points in his first seven minutes on the track); and, later, with the productive experience of Laia Palau, the Spanish team was accumulating advantages until reaching +15 (22-37, m. 17) before the break. Moving the ball fluently and penalizing the losses of the ball of the Koreans with sharp counterattacks, those of Mondelo were undermining the effervescence of the opponent, grabbing the rebounds of Han Byul Kim and the points of Ji Su Park.
Limited arguments against a solid Spain that fought Korean anarchy with its usual intensity, several defenses in the area and asymmetric combinations in which, on occasion, mixed on the track to four short. One of them, Marta Xargay, monopolized the role before the trip to changing rooms (25-43, m. 20). And, in the resumption, the Spanish marabunta overwhelmed Korea with a partial 0-11 in just four minutes that finally broke the game (25-54, m. 24). With another defensive and character display, those of Mondelo were once again unattainable for their rival. By then, Spain had 11 robberies and had caused 15 turnovers of the Koreans. The influence of Laura Gil and Laura Nicholls was devastating inside and, at the same time, allowed to unleash the usual deployment of the selection in the perimeter. The whirlwind led to another win. The difference in favor of Spain reached 43 points at the end of the match, the same ones granted by its voracious defense.
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