Jordi Fernandez names World Cup's best defenders, particularities of decider vs. Spain

2023-09-02 08:03

Canada coach Jordi Fernandez addressed his team's crucial game vs. Spain and explained how he expects both opponents to show up. He also mentioned what Dillon Brooks must do in order to help the squad more.

Credit: FIBA

Jordi Fernandez will be facing his country's national team this Sunday, when Team Canada will be taking on Spain for a spot in the 2023 World Cup quarter-finals. 

The Spanish tactician first served as an assistant for Spain's U19 men's national team in 2013, before working as an assistant coach on the Spanish men's national team between 2017 and 2019. However, if someone expected that playing Spain would hold a special significance for the 40-year-old play-caller, that's hardly the case.

Asked about whether he thinks about the possibility of eliminating La Roja, Fernandez opted to shrug off the questions, saying he's just thinking "about my guys and Canada basketball. Whoever is in front of us, we want to beat them."

Following the loss to Brazil, Canada must beat Spain to advance. But the same goes for the Spaniards as well, as their defeat by Latvia threatens to derail Sergio Scariolo's squad.

Fernandez thinks the setback will prove to be beneficial for his players because it hurt their feelings. 

"And when you're feelings are hurt, you want to do whatever it takes to fix it," he argued.

"You come together and you're ready for the next challenge. I know our guys aren't happy, but they showed up here, watched film, and will be better tomorrow."

The Badalona-born coach expects his former team to show up with a good game plan.

"They're going to be ready to fight and compete. They're also hurt, so it's going to be two wounded animals fighting for their lives," he pointed out. 

"It's going to be a fun game. This is a big opportunity for our careers and our program. If you told me a month ago that I'd be playing against Spain to go to the quarter-finals and it's up to us to win the game and advance, I would have taken it. That's why you do this job."

Up until the game against Brazil, Canada hadn't faced much adversity in this World Cup. Their three wins in as many games had been blowouts and their games were decided even before the fourth quarter set in. But the outcome of the contest vs. Brazil has put Canada's future in the tournament at stake. 

In this vein, Fernandez thinks that some friendly games, especially those against Germany, have helped his team learn how to fight through tough situations. 

"We played in an arena with 15,000 people and got punched in the mouth," he recalled, referring to the first prep game vs. Germany.

"Then, we came back and played them again in Hamburg. We were down and won in overtime. The same thing happened in Spain in front of 8,000 people. Those tournaments and the journey have told me that whenever we face adversity, we punch back."

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went for 23 points against Brazil and so far, he has been the most consistent offensive weapon for Team Canada, starting from the game against France, where he exploded in the second half. Fernandez is certain that the OKC superstar is his team's point of reference. 

"He's our guy," he said. "We don't need one player to try to win the game on his own. It's just his role on the team. His role is as important as other players. Do your job, whether it's scoring, rebounding, or being ready for your teammates."

At the same time, Dillon Brooks is having a hard time adjusting to the allowed level of physical and defensive toughness that those games require. The Houston Rockets player has been getting into foul trouble early and that has taken a toll on his playing time as well. 

Credit FIBA

Fernandez said that's something that the player has to figure out himself.

"Definitely, officiating is a little bit different. We're giving him the toughest assignment every time, so you have to give him credit," he explained.

"He definitely has to be better without fouling, but I trust him and Lu [Dort] as the best defenders in the World Cup. We're happy to have both of them. I'm sure he will make an impact in the next game and be a star in his role."


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