SPORTS

Seeking a quarterfinals berth

With two wins from three encounters in first-round group play in Belgrade at the Eurobasket tournament, Greece, which ended second in its group, meets Israel tonight in a knockout game for a quarterfinals place. Slovenia, as group winner, advanced automatically to the quarterfinals. «Israel is a team that is respected throughout Europe – a small country with a long basketball tradition,» noted Greece’s coach Panayiotis Yiannakis at a news conference in Belgrade yesterday. «But a difficult night awaits us. They tend to play with three guards rather than two and share similar qualities with Bosnia and Herzegovina,» he added. The national team’s coach said he expected the Israeli team to resort to rough tactics in compensation for what he described as a lack of talent. «Israel tries to dominate by pushing and pulling. That is expected because when a team does not have talent, it tries to bring you down to its level,» said Yiannakis, a key member of the squad that won the European title back in 1987, Greece’s first ever major international triumph in team sport. Responding to whether he considered Greece to be the encounter’s favorite, Yiannakis noted: «We’re better. The boys have an objective, they play basketball with a youthful heart and just keep getting better and better.» Yiannakis warned that the Israelis were well read on Greek basketball. «The Israelis follow the Greek league closely. They’re well informed about all our players,» he said. «We will need to be determined and focused throughout the game.» Greece captured second place in its group after defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday night. In its opening match, the national team defeated France, but then lost to Slovenia. «We played a strong game [against Bosnia and Herzegovina], in which we displayed both good and bad moments. We showed positive aspects as a team, especially after the loss against Slovenia,» said Yiannakis. «We had patience. I’m not going to keep carrying on about certain elementary mistakes. They’re justified by our boys’ strong desire to bring back distinction. The 20 assists [against Slovenia] prove that they understand the team’s philosophy,» he added. Yiannakis noted that the tournament’s overall standard was high, adding that Greece could stand firmly among the competition. «But our first objective has been achieved,» said Yiannakis. «Our opponents know that Greece is a team that must be feared.»