Tough draw for Olympics spot

Greece will need to overcome Brazil, a formidable force in international basketball, for a place at the Olympic basketball tournament in Beijing, following a draw held in Athens yesterday. The men’s national team is among 12 contestants that will battle for three remaining Olympic berths at a qualifying tournament to be held in Athens from July 14 to 20. Nine teams have already booked their places. Besides Brazil, Greece will face Lebanon, on the opening day of play, in Group A. Group B consists of Cape Verde, New Zealand and Germany. Korea, Canada and Slovenia were drawn into Group C, and Cameroon, Puerto Rico and Croatia into Group D. The top two in each group will advance to the quarterfinals. The winners will go to the semifinals and the two winning semifinalists will qualify for the Olympics. The losing pair will clash for third place and the other berth. Nine teams have already qualified for the men’s Olympic tournament, August 10 to 24, at the Beijing Games. Angola advanced as African champion, Argentina as Americas runners-up, Australia as Oceania champion, China as host, Iran as Asian champion, Lithuania as the bronze medalist at the Europeans, Russia as the European Champion, Spain as World Champion, and the USA as Americas Champion. Yesterday’s draw was delayed a few hours as it coincided with the funeral service for Archbishop Christodoulos. In club-level developments, Olympi-akos’s home defeat against Montepaschi Siena in Euroleague play Wednesday night sparked further unrest among disappointed fans who are calling for the resignation of the team’s coach, Pini Gershon. The Israeli needed to be escorted off the court by game stewards as fans hurled objects in his direction. The turnout for the game was poor with approximately 3,000 Olympiakos fans turning up for the encounter at the 14,000-capacity Peace and Friendship Stadium. Olympiakos, defeated 80-73 by the visiting Italians, ended fifth in the Euroleague’s Group A to sneak through to the competition’s next stage of group play with a lackluster 7-7 record.