Final Four Fails to Fire Up Spanish Press; Russians Fete Fantastic' Israel Fans

The front page of Spain's best-selling sports daily Marca had some big stories on its front page yesterday.

The front page of Spain's best-selling sports daily Marca had some big stories on its front page yesterday: Barcelona beats Valencia 2-0 to tighten its hold on its first championship since 1999; Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is planning six major acquisitions over the summer to bolster his squad; Rafael Nadal beat Guillermo Coria in the final of the Rome Masters; and a Spanish handball team had won a tournament in Zagreb.

But what of Tau Vitoria's defeat and Maccabi Tel Aviv's second consecutive triumph in the Final Four? Somewhere toward the back of the 64-page tabloid.

"Maccabi's greater experience defeated us," was the headline - a quote from the Basque team's coach, Dusko Ivanovic - alongside a picture of three Maccabi players holding aloft the trophy. The report of the Final Four was the lead item on a basketball page that also included results from the NBA playoffs, several reports from the local league and an analysis of the Final Four.

"Tau's nervousness gave Maccabi wings and Pini Gershon's team is a machine gun," the writer gushed. "Gershon never gets it wrong."

As gave the Final Four even less coverage, while El Mundo Deportivo devoted almost all its space to Barcelona's victory. Spain, a country where basketball is on the decline, largely ignored Maccabi's Euroleague triumph.

The general consensus among the Russia sports media yesterday was that "the best team in Europe won." There is generous praise for Maccabi, as well as for the Israeli fans.

"We have finally been shown how to cheer on a team," wrote Sport Express, which also had words of criticism for the tournament's organizers: "It is far from clear how CSKA handled the ticket issue, but the fact that there were only around 10,000 fans in the arena proves that a super-team cannot be built in two or three years."

The fate of CSKA coach Dusan Ivkovic has yet to be decided, but there is a clear sense in the press that his position is far from secure.

"CSKA would surely benefit from a modern coach along the lines of Pini Gershon," wrote one Internet journalist. "Saras is without doubt the best player in Europe, and in Pini Gershon, Maccabi also has probably the best coach on the continent. Against a combination like that, nobody, including CSKA Moscow, would be able to stand in Maccabi's way."

A sports commentary in Sport Express determined that "CSKA will have to do a lot of rethinking. The $70 million that have been invested in the team over the last three years have failed to yield results, and someone will have to pay for that."