SPORTS

Greece gets pass for basketball's World Championship

By George Georgakopoulos

Greece secured one of the four wild cards of FIBA on Saturday and will participate in the World Championship to take place later this year in Spain.

Basketball's world governing body filled the four empty slots for the tournament, scheduled for August 30-September 14, by inviting Greece, Turkey, Brazil and Finland, out of 14 candidates.

Greece had failed to get a ticket to the World Championship on the court due to its poor performance in last year's European Championship, but its stature among the world's superpowers (standing at the fifth spot in FIBA's world ranking) and the fact that this was the first time Greece had ever needed a wild card did the trick in the country's favor.

Participation in the World Championship also means Greece will not have to negotiate a qualifying round in order to play in the 2015 Eurobasket.

Among the candidates for the wild cards were Russia, Germany, Italy and China, but all of them reportedly withdrew from the process for various reasons, with Germany and Italy protesting about the pecuniary contribution of wild card receivers.

That contribution amounts to 800,000 euros, according to Greek federation strongman Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, and in Greece's case it will be covered by the national team's sponsor, Eurobank.

The decision is a lifeline for the Greek national team, as being left out of the tournament would have meant no action for Greece this year.

It would have also spelt an early end to the international career of the old generation of Greece players, such as captain Antonis Fotsis and guard Nikos Zisis.

The draw for the World Championship will take place on Monday in Spain.

Upon the return of the Greek federation's delegation from Spain, the hunt for the new Greece coach will start, with favorites including former Greece coach Panayiotis Giannakis and Bilbao coach Fotis Katsikaris.

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