Follow the World Cup on Facebook
Italy return to World Cup for first time since 2006 after thrashing Hungary
VARESE (Italy) - A defensive masterclass powered Italy to a 75-41 thrashing of Hungary and sealed their first FIBA Basketball World Cup berth in 13 years.
The normally attacking Italy strangled Hungary with suffocating pressure in a one-sided contest much to the delight of the capacity crowd at the historic Enerxenia Arena. Hungary could only muster a miserable 15 points in the first half as their faint World Cup hopes evaporated.
Italy had 11 players get on the scoresheet with Amedeo Della Valle's 15 points leading the way, while Pietro Aradori added 11. David Vojvoda (15 points) and Szilard Benke (14 points) battled against the odds for Hungary.
The result meant that Poland also qualified from Group J after they earlier sent Croatia packing with a thrilling 77-69 victory in Varazdin. It ended a 52-year drought for Poland at FIBA's flagship competition.
Turning point: Hungary was competitive at the start and trailed by just six points early in the second quarter before being smothered by the Azzurri. They went scoreless for more than five minutes as Italy reeled off a 15-0 run and the home side were never threatened from there.
Game hero: Della Valle sizzled but it was an even performance by Italy. The hero was perhaps Coach Meo Sacchetti, who masterminded the spectacular performance. As a former Varese player and beloved local figure, it was a particularly sweet victory for the 65-year-old.
Stats don't lie: Indicative of Italy's stellar defense, Hungary had a tough time making buckets and shot a lowly 29.6 percent from the field. They didn't help themselves either with a sloppy 5-of-11 display from the free-throw line in a horror showing for the visitors.
Bottom line: Italy have now booked their ticket for China, ensuring a stress-free final game on Monday against Lithuania, who are also World Cup-bound. Hungary will look for a consolation victory against Croatia in a battle between two teams already eliminated.
They said: "What can I say, it's a historical result for our country. We're proud to be part of this. We've had a lot of players coming and going. Coach had to make a lot of difficult decisions. What I think was special for us is that everyone who was called felt like a part of the team and that was important for us." - Italy guard Amedeo Della Valle
"It was a great effort by my players. They played really, really tough defense in the first half and Hungary scored only 15 points. The first five minutes of the second half was important as we kept the lead around 17-20 points and minute by minute we finished the game with a bigger margin of victory. Amedeo scored 15 points but all the players on the court did a great job. I want to talk about Jeff Brooks who didn't shoot once in the first half but he grabbed 7 rebounds and played great defense. He had 4 offensive rebounds. He is a team player and that is important." - Italy head coach Meo Sacchetti