Greece hoping to avoid abrupt end to World Cup dream
AGONAsport’s basketball contributor, Peter Katsiris, talks about the importance of Greece’s game against the Czech Republic as the Ethniki hopes to bring an end to years of disappointment on the international stage.
After years of disappointing, Greece will hope to overcome the Czech Republic on Monday night in hopes of clinching a berth in the knockout rounds of the 2019 FIBA World Cup…
Greece have it all to do on the final day of group stage action in the second round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup as the Ethniki face a win-or-go-home scenario against the Czech Republic on Monday night in Shenzhen.
After a dismal performance against the United States to open the second round on Saturday, Greece now need a win by 12 points or more against a surprise Czech side that soared to a 93-71 defeat of Brazil.
A shock defeat to Brazil in the first round put Greece in a dire situation that could ultimately result in the Ethniki failing to live up to expectations after entering the tournament among the favourites to end the United States’ run of back-to-back titles.
After a successful string of tournaments that included EuroBasket gold in 2005 and a memorable defeat of the USA en route to the silver medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, results for the Ethniki have been on the decline.
While there was a fourth-place finish at EuroBasket 2007 and a fifth-place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games, failing to qualify for two Olympics and underwhelming in Europe underline a recurring theme for the Ethniki.
Besides a bronze medal finish at EuroBasket 2009, the Ethniki have continuously struggled to compete with Europe’s best on the EuroBasket stage with a fifth-place finish at EuroBasket 2015 the lone highlight in the past ten years. Meanwhile, Olympic basketball seems to be a thing of the past for the Ethniki after failing to qualify for London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.
So, while the Ethniki could be forgiven for not beating the United States on Saturday, the poor quality of basketball that has been on display from Thanasis Skourtopoulos’ men thus far this tournament shouldn’t be forgotten.
Disappointments of years past might be forgotten if the Ethniki can progress to the knockout round, where they’ll face either France or Australia in the quarterfinals. Although a route to the Final seems like a much bigger long shot now than it did two weeks ago, the closer the Ethniki can get to the podium in China the better for the outlook of Greek basketball heading into next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.