Greece have made it through the first round of the FIBA World Cup successfully, after a stressful win against New Zealand by six points (103-97) and will now join Brazil, the Czech Republic and the United Stated to decide who will advance to the quarter-finals.
The Greek team were under a lot of pressure, a fact that was obvious from early on, and even though they maintained the lead, they simply could not break away from their scrappy opponents, who would always find a way to reduce the gap.
Thanassis Skourtopoulos’ players faced many problems in defence, just as they did on Tuesday night against Brazil, allowing the “Kiwi’s” many pathways to their basket and holding out on their fouls.
On the other end, despite their 103 points, there were many times that the Greeks appeared to be out of ideas and relied heavily on the individual inspirations of players such as Giorgos Printezis (13 pts), Ioannis Papapetrou (who scored a personal record of 16 points with the national team), or the Antetokounmpo brothers.
Thanassis was able to provide 10 points while the ‘Greek Freak’ was named Man of the Match, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, pulling the team out of some very difficult situations and making things almost impossible for the “Tall Blacks”.
The next opponents for the Greek Team will be the United States this Saturday, in a highly anticipated game for both sides. The last loss the US team suffered in a major competition was again by Greece in 2006 in Saitama.
The “The Wall Street Journal” points out this will be the first time that the US will face another team without having the best player on the court playing for the opponents, remarking on Antetokounmpo.
However, besides providing Greece with a ticket to the next phase of the World Cup, the latest win also ensured Australia’s presence in the Olympic games next year.
The Tall Blacks failed to advance and cannot reach the positions that provide access to the pre-Olympic tournament, which means that the only team from Oceania that is eligible to play are the Boomers.
Andrej Lemanis’ men had already secured their position to the second round of the World Cup on Tuesday, yet they remained undefeated against Lithuania in the final match of the group despite facing some very difficult situations (87-82).
A cool three-pointer by Patty Mills just seconds before the end of the game ensured that Australia would come out as winners from this tough contest.
They will now face the Dominican Republic and France in round two.
Saturday 7 September
6.00 pm Australia – Dominican Republic
10.30 pm United States – Greece