Ricky Rubio inspires Spain to FIBA World Cup glory

Tournament MVP Rubio pays tribute to late mother after Spain shut down Luis Scola and Argentina in Beijing to claim second world title

With just two regular NBA starters on their 12-man roster, Spain were viewed as outsiders for the FIBA Basketball World Cup when the tournament kicked off on 31 August.

But on Sunday, they overwhelmed Argentina to make it eight wins out of eight in China and become world champions for the second time.

In 2006, La Roja thrashed Greece 70-47 in the final in Saitama, Japan.

Thirteen years on in Beijing, Sergio Scariolo's men put on a defensive masterclass to shut down Luis Scola and beat the South Americans 95-75.

Captain Rudy Fernandez lifted the trophy and Spain's national anthem, 'Marcha Real' ('Royal March'), rang out inside the Wukesong Arena to mark the country's climb to the top.

"We have achieved much more than winning a title. We are a team that will go down in history forever." - Spain's FIBA World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio

Spain captain Rudy Fernandez lifts the FIBA World Cup trophy in Beijing
Spain captain Rudy Fernandez lifts the FIBA World Cup trophy in BeijingSpain captain Rudy Fernandez lifts the FIBA World Cup trophy in Beijing

Rampant 'Roja'

Spain stamped their authority on the game from the start, racing out into a 14-2 lead.

Argentina scored 11 unanswered points to close the gap to one, but the Europeans then went on a 17-1 run and never looked back.

It was a superb performance at both ends of the court from the Spaniards with Scola, a survivor of Argentina's run to gold at Athens 2004, unable to break free from the red-vested shackles.

The veteran centre missed with his first seven shots from the floor, taking 34 minutes to score his first field goal.

Scariolo's plan to smother the 39-year-old worked to perfection with Pierre Oriola, and then brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangomez giving Argentina's emblematic leader no room for manoeuvre.

Scola went on to finish the game with just one field goal from 10 attempts.

Argentina's Luis Scola (#4) has nowhere to go with Spain's Pierre Oriola (#18) in close attendance
Argentina's Luis Scola (#4) has nowhere to go with Spain's Pierre Oriola (#18) in close attendanceArgentina's Luis Scola (#4) has nowhere to go with Spain's Pierre Oriola (#18) in close attendance

Spain dominated the rebound count - 47 to 27 - and established their own rhythm in attack, opening up the floor with some exquisite passing and movement.

After going into half-time 43-31 in front, the Spaniards soon stretched their lead to 22 points with their opponents becoming increasingly desperate.

With no inside game, Argentina had to resort to outside shooting from Gabriel Deck and Nicolas Laprovittola but they were unable to haul the deficit back to single figures.

They cut the lead to 12 twice, but Spain weathered the momentary turbulence and ran out comfortable winners by 20 points.

It was a great team effort from Spain with Ricky Rubio again leading the way with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists which saw him named MVP for the final and for the entire tournament.

Sergio Llull scored 15 points as Marc Gasol starred with 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks.

For Argentina, Deck scored 24 points, Laprovittola 17 and Facundo Campazzo 11.

Rubio's emotional triumph

Gasol joined Rubio in being named to the team of the tournament - the All-Star Five - along with Scola, Serbia's Bogdan Bogdanovic and Evan Fournier of France.

After receiving his MVP award from two-time Olympic champion and NBA great Kobe Bryant, Rubio was visibly moved as he paid tribute to his late mother.

Spain's Ricky Rubio poses for photos after receiving the FIBA World Cup MVP award from Kobe Bryant
Spain's Ricky Rubio poses for photos after receiving the FIBA World Cup MVP award from Kobe BryantSpain's Ricky Rubio poses for photos after receiving the FIBA World Cup MVP award from Kobe Bryant

The Phoenix Suns guard said, "Three years ago, I lost my mother, who was always by my side, encouraging me to improve as a player. Today I feel very emotional and proud, because she still motivates me from where she is.

"I’ve always had the gold medal on my mind; I was telling coach Scariolo, and I really believed it. Here, in Beijing, I played my first ever major tournament with the national team back in 2008, and today I am enjoying this triumph." - Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio speaks with Olympic Channel about the loss of his mother in 2016

Ricky Rubio speaks with Olympic Channel about the loss of his mother in 2016

Gasol brothers celebrate

Marc Gasol and coach Scariolo were both completing famous doubles after winning the NBA Finals three months ago with the Toronto Raptors.

The centre said, "This is great indeed. Now I’m on a roll, I’m thinking about also playing football in the final of the Spanish Super Cup with FC Barcelona to get my hands on another trophy. It’s a good idea, and I don’t mind if they don’t start me."

Spain achieved this triumph without arguably their best and most famous player, Marc's brother Pau.

He was quick to pay tribute to the team after their success on social media:

"World champions! Come on, guys. Congratulations, you are the best. We love you. Time to celebrate. You have made history again. Thank you for these moments. Come on, we are the best!" - Pau Gasol on Twitter

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