Tough Euro draw, says Yiannakis

MADRID (Reuters) – European champions Greece face a tougher challenge to retain their crown next year than they did in reaching last month’s world final, coach Panayiotis Yiannakis said after yesterday’s draw for the Madrid tournament. Triumphant at the last Euros in 2005, and losing finalists at September’s Worlds in Japan, Greece have been drawn in Group A with Russia, Serbia and the winner of an additional qualifying tournament. «This is perhaps a more difficult competition than the worlds,» Yiannakis said. «You always have to beat strong teams if you want to do something special, though.» Spain beat Greece 70-47 to win this year’s world final and hosting next year’s Madrid tournament gives the Spanish a great chance to win their first European title. The world champions, runners-up five times in the Euros, were drawn in Group B along with Croatia, Latvia and Portugal. Group C drew Germany, Turkey, Czech Republic and Lithuania. Group D comprises France, Slovenia, Italy and Poland. FIBA Europe president George Vassilakopoulos said, «Europe has six of the top eight teams in the world at the moment so this tournament will be very competitive.»