Greece beats Israel 74-73

The national basketball team will be entering tomorrow night’s tough Eurobasket qualifier against the formidable Spaniards at the Greek capital’s Peristeri Stadium as a confident side following its courageous 74-73 win over a determined Israeli team at Tel Aviv’s packed Yad Eliahu Stadium late on Wednesday night. Greece, which remains undefeated after four games, stunned the home team by clinching victory following a late 16-2 run that overturned Israel’s lead, a lead held through most of the game. The run was sparked by team captain Frangiskos Alvertis, who was also Greece’s top scorer, with 19 points. «As long as I live, I’ll be hoping for victories,» Greece’s jubilant coach, Yiannis Ioannidis, who has led Greek clubs in the past to triumphs in European club-level competition, told reporters. «We won the fixture’s most crucial game without playing well,» he added. Prior to Wednesday night’s game, Greece had also defeated three less-favored group rivals, Belgium, Denmark and Romania. Tomorrow’s opponent, Spain, ended second and third in the two previous Eurobasket finals. The group’s five teams will be seeking two berths at next year’s 33rd Eurobasket Championships in Sweden. «Spain is a good team that is strong overall, but we’re ready and able to defeat them,» national team member Efthymis Retzias, a forward with Spanish club Barcelona, remarked during the Greek squad’s return flight from Tel Aviv. Ioannidis echoed the player’s remarks. «We’ve got to beat the Spaniards and get the qualifying task over and done with,» he said. Greece was crowned European champion in 1987 but has since failed to repeat the feat. Denis Oswald, the IOC official monitoring Athens’s preparations, said construction of any new hotels in Athens must begin by May for the IOC to be assured they will be completed by August 2004.

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