By George Georgakopoulos
Greece enters the European Basketball Championship (aka Eurobasket) of 2013 in Slovenia on Wednesday as one of the favorites for a medal, wishing to capitalize on the fact that most of its rivals have a host of absences that render this tournament rather poor in terms of big names. It opens its challenge against the minnows of Sweden.
Tipped by experts to finish second or third – with the odds-on favorite being Spain – Greece is hoping to put the disastrous 2012 behind it and banish the memory of its failure to reach the Olympic Games due to a shock loss to Nigeria.
Sporting a new coach, the Italian Andrea Trinchieri, the white-and-blues constitute a good mix of experienced and young talented players that should easily make it to the quarterfinals, which is the make-or-break stage of the tournament.
“In this period of crisis in Greece, we are very well aware of what it would mean for the country if we succeed,” stated Greece forward Stratos Perperoglou.
“We want to make people happy. We know it will not solve people’s problems, but it will at least give them a reason to have joy for a few days. That is what we will try to do,” he added.
With such battle-hardened players as Vassilis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, Giorgos Printezis and Nikos Zisis, and the younger generation of Costas Papanikolaou and Mike Bramos offering some fresh blood, the team can expect to make the most of its talent and return Greek basketball to another European final, after its clubs have dominated the Euroleague in the last three years.
In its opening game at 6.45 p.m. Greek time the national team is facing Sweden at Koper, but the important games in this first group stage for Greece are against Russia on Thursday, Turkey on Saturday and Italy on Sunday. On Monday it will come up against Finland.
The top three teams of the six-team group advance to the second stage and, crucially, carry with them the results with the other teams to make it through. This renders the matches against Russia, Turkey and Italy twice as significant in the first round.
The top four teams in each second-stage group of six teams will make the quarterfinals, which is the first knock-out round.
The final of the tournament will take place on September 22.