With a great comeback from being down by 13 points (31-18 in the 16th minute), the Men’s National Team achieved a victory in The Hague, taking yet another step towards qualifying for the final phase of EuroBasket 2025.

The national team triumphed 74-72 over the Netherlands in the 2nd round, securing their second consecutive win in Group 6 of the competition.

On the other hand, the hosts suffered their second defeat in as many games.

Absences (Mitioglou, Wolters, Papapetrou, Larentzakis left out of the 12-man squad), unforeseen injuries (Mitrou-Long sidelined in the morning practice, Kostas Antetokounmpo suffered a knee ligament injury in the 2nd period and did not return), and weakness in rebounding turned what was theoretically an easy mission into an adventure for the Greek team.

However, the determination of the players and the explosive performance of Vasilis Tolios (26 points, 8 assists, 2 steals, 3 rebounds) achieved the goal of a double victory.

Quarters: 12-16, 39-32, 58-62, 72-74

Mistakes and missed rebounds spoiled the excellent start of the National Team (0-5 in the 2nd minute, 6-12 in the 7th minute), with the Dutch zone defense disorienting the Greek players, who saw the lead disappear in the 8th minute (12-12) before Moraitis found solutions and personally scored 12-16 in the 10th minute.

In the second period, a dead period for the national team, set the stage for the hosts to dominate the rebounds, execute fast breaks, and with a partial score of 19-2, write 31-18 in the 16th minute. Lountzis and Tolios tried to respond, Kalaitzakis entered the equation, but there wasn’t enough time for anything better than 39-32 at halftime.

With the national team increasing its productivity in the third quarter and Tolios delivering a masterclass in execution and creation, Greece responded with a partial score of 14-24 and in the 28th minute, surged ahead with 53-56 after a three-pointer by the Aris guard. The players did not lose their focus and with Moraitis-Kouzeloglou closed the period at +4 (58-62).

The Netherlands regained the lead in the 32nd minute (63-62) and from that point on, the two teams were neck and neck, turning the game into a thriller. In the 37th minute, Moraitis’ three-pointer seemed to unlock his team (68-69), but experienced Saftenaar was there for 71-70. With 29 seconds left, however, Tolios made it 71-72, Saftenaar missed a critical three-pointer, and Charalampopoulos ran for the fast break, sealing Greece’s “double” with a dunk (71-74 with 4 seconds left).

Referees: Matsoni, Parks, Mitrofski

The lineups:

Netherlands(Arrik Sivek): Dickstra, Franke 9, Kluf 5, Kraag 10, Enzekwesi 7 (1), Saftenaar 13, Van Bree 8 (2), Van Oijk 3 (1), Van der Vurst de Vries 9 (1), Berbers 8 (2), Williams.

Greece (Vassilis Spanoulis): Charalampopoulos 10 (2), Kouzeloglou 4, Lountzis 5 (1), Mantzoukas, Papagiannis 6, Antetokounmpo, Kalaitzakis 9 (1), Moraitis 14 (1), Rogavopoulos, Tolios 26 (4), Zougris.

“I am proud of the players and my country”. The national team’s head coach, Vassilis Spanoulis, highlighted the team’s defense and the Greek players’ superhuman effort after the team’s victory.

“Defense is the way we have learned to win. It’s not suitable for the faint-hearted, but we have kids with soul. We had the misfortune of Kostas (Antetokounmpo) getting injured, but all the kids played for those who were missing. The most important thing beyond the win is to build the team’s mentality. I told the kids before the game that they need to understand which jersey they are wearing, that people have come from abroad and from Greece to see them. That they need to play for our homeland and make the team the nation’s favorite again. A big thank you to the fans; we showed once again that Greeks are everywhere and united. I am proud of the kids; they made a superhuman effort and deserve congratulations. I have spoken enough with Tolios; I spoke to him after the Czech Republic game where he wasn’t very good. I have told him that I believe in him as a player, but I don’t want to focus only on him but on all the kids who gave their all for the team.

“I am proud of the players and my country. Several kids sacrificed themselves playing with discomfort to play for the National Team, and this is the most important thing for me to change our country’s mentality in basketball. Mentality is the number one thing you need to succeed. In the first half, we made many mistakes and missed many rebounds. We lost our way and our philosophy, but the last 2-3 minutes of the first half were crucial for us to lead us to what we had to do. The Netherlands is a good team, all teams can beat you. We expected to play against a zone, but it’s not easy to play 40 minutes against a zone, especially when you have few practices. The kids reacted well in most cases.”

On the players’ side, the hero of the victory, Vassilis Tolios, said: “I am very happy; I can’t describe my feelings. It’s a huge honor, and winning with the National Team is something I dreamed of since I was a child. The changing defense is something we play all year with my team, and I am used to it. When you play with the National Team, the least you have to do is to sacrifice your body. We managed to reduce the gap to seven at halftime; we said we could turn it around, we showed soul, we made big defenses, the shots went in, and we managed to turn it around. It’s difficult to manage it, but all the kids are strong characters and they showed it when we were behind in the score. It’s a huge joy for me; it’s a lifelong dream to be called up by Vassilis Spanoulis for the Men’s National Team, and I will do my best every time to make my dreams come true with the National Team.”