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Gasol relishing Spain challenge

Published: 8:21AM Thursday August 03, 2006 Source: Reuters

Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol was relishing the challenge of spearheading Spain's campaign at the world championships in Japan later this month.

"I know there is more pressure and a greater responsibility on me than the others. It is a challenge to overcome it and to make sure it doesn't affect me," Gasol told a news conference on Thursday.

The 26-year-old former Barcelona player became the first Spaniard to be included in the NBA All-Star squad in February, and is Spain's highest profile player as they prepare for championships in Japan, which starts on Aug 19.

Spain beat defending world champions Serbia & Montenegro 89-62 in a tournament in Alicante on Tuesday, but Gasol recognises the side still have a long way to go.

"The team fills me with enthusiasm. I want the tournament to start as soon as possible because it is only there when we will be able to prove whether we deserve to end up among the medals or not," he added.

"I think we can give more than we have done in friendlies so far. These games just help us to find our rhythm."

Spain coach Pepu Hernandez said: "If we can unite all the personalities into a team we will be difficult to stop. With everyone playing to the maximum of their abilities we could go far."

Spain have been drawn in Group B along with Angola, Germany, New Zealand, Panama and hosts Japan.