Greece to play USA in 2004

Responding to the weekend’s draw for the basketball competition at next summer’s Olympics, which placed Greece in Group A along with the powerful USA, the national team’s coach, Yiannis Ioannidis, said it was preferable to clash against the NBA-manned team in group play rather than meet in knockout competition from the quarterfinals onward. The tournament’s 12 qualifiers, equally divided into two groups of six, will vie for places among the top four in their groups, which guarantees quarterfinal berths. «It’s better that we’ve been drawn into the same group, which means that we won’t meet the USA in a knock-out encounter,» Ioannidis said. «Sure, this means that we miss out on first place because of the USA, but, I believe, we can take on all other sides,» he added. Greece, which ended fifth at last summer’s European Basketball Championships in Sweden despite failing to hit full stride, will play Australia in its opening game scheduled for August 15, before facing the USA two days later. It then meets reigning European champions Lithuania on August 19, Angola on August 21, and Puerto Rico on August 23. Ioannidis noted that he believed Greece is capable of reaching the tournament’s semifinals. Greece, which was crowned European champion in 1987 and runner-up two years later – it had also won bronze in 1949 – has never won an Olympic medal in basketball.