Rio Olympics 2016: 5 teams which can upset USA basketball team
The Olympics represent the highest level of competition across sports. The very best athletes around the world compete at the pinnacle of their respective sports, and the winner in any team sports is rarely a foregone conclusion.
Except when it comes to Basketball, when the world generally assumes that Team USA will walk away with the gold as they have 14 times out of 17 in the past. On the other three occasions, they had to settle for one silver and two bronze medals. What is often overlooked is that although Team USA has swept the competition more often than not, they are a far cry from the days of the Dream Team which would annihilate the competition.
The days of the Dream Team elevated those superstars to the level of rockstars. They took on a persona larger than life as they demolished the competition which was more interested in taking pictures with them than dreaming of beating them.
That Dream Team inspired a number of foreign superstars who have now become legends in their own right in their countries. In an ironic twist of fate, they are the ones who are now looking to take Team USA down in the Olympics.
Here's how the groups stack up in the 2016 Rio Olympics:
Group A: USA, France, Venezuela, Serbia, China and Australia
Group B: Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Croatia and Nigeria
In 2012, USA barely beat Spain by a margin of 7 points which was the second closest score in an Olympic Final. Team USA is not infallible by any means, and here's a look at five teams which could upset the USA basketball team in the Olympics:
#1 Spain, FIBA Rank-2
Spain come into the 2016 Rio Olympics having won two straight silver medals in 2008 and 2012. That is no consolation to the team which has won the gold in FIBA EuroBasket in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
Spain ought to have fielded one of the most formidable frontcourts in the league, but they will be without the services of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Gasol will be out with a broken foot, his attempts at an early recovery having failed.
Serge Ibaka is a different matter. In the 2012 Olympics, it was reported that Ibaka "felt underused and questioned his standing on the team." Last time, he played only 121 minutes in the 8 games that Spain participated in. Although, he was third in minutes played with only the Gasol brothers enjoying more floor time.
Speaking of the Gasol brothers, this time, the burden is squarely on the shoulders of Pau Gasol. He had considered skipping the Olympics over concerns regarding the Zika virus. He confirmed his decision and loyalty thusly, "My commitment to the national team is greater than my fears over what might happen,"
Spain is still a team to be reckoned with. Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Nikola Mirotic, Juan Carlos Navarro and Felipe Reyes will present tough competition with Pau Gasol manning the middle
This is probably the last chance for an Olympic gold medal for Navarro, Pau Gasol, and Felipe Reyes as all three of them are 36 years old now.