Varejao: ''I don't have to ask them to come on Sunday because I know they'll come to cheer us on''
RIO DE JANEIRO (Brazil) – Flamengo couldn't fail their fans in the second Semi-Finals game of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup. And they did not. With an intelligent frame and a high effectivity in three-point throws (55%), the locals overpowered the Austin Spurs, 90-58, and qualified to the much desired Final.
“This is a very important triumph because we got in a FIBA championship Final, and that's not something insignificant. We did a great job against a team that was unknown for most of us because we're not used to seeing the USA’s G-League. We did a great defensive job and we knew they played one-on-one a lot and we were able to contain them well,” said Franco Balbi, the game's greatest scorer, with 19 points.
Marquinhos, who contributed 17, commented: “We did a great defensive job by leaving Austin under the 60 points. We forced them to play in half the court, when we all know that what they like to do is to run the counterattack. Besides, we rotated the ball well and had a great shot effectivity.”
For the Brazilian team's coach, Gustavo De Conti, this success was “an important step because now we have the chance to dispute the Cup. The Spurs have a squad that’s featuring six new players and we knew that they wouldn’t have a good tactical performance. So, we focused on the individual aspects of each player and we knew how to defend well.”
On Sunday, Flamengo will face a much more complicated challenge against AEK, champions of Europe’s Basketball Champions League. “It's going to be a game against a really strong team that we watched take out San Lorenzo, with everything that entails. They were the Americas’ champions and have a very competitive roster. We must prepare physically for this duel and we expect to be at the height of the game so that we can play a good Final and conquer our second world championship,” explained Balbi.
Marquinhos added: “Playing in the Final means a lot to us. We're in a good moment as a team and we feel ready to go for that title. It’ll be a very difficult game and we’ll try to play a good game to get to be champions.”
Center Anderson Varejão, who collaborated with 9 points and 6 rebounds, didn't have any doubts when thinking about their upcoming clash against the Greeks: “We're ready for the war that's going to be Sunday’s game. And when you're ready, it doesn’t matter who's in front of you. So we’ll face that Final the best we can. There might be a bit of anxiety and nervousness, but your experiences make you compare this with situations you've lived before and it helps you to calmly assume them. I train and I focus a lot and I know my possibilities, as do I know the possibilities of my team and the technical staff. So, it's like that that I have confidence in ourselves.”
Last week Flamengo suffered a terrible tragedy. A fire in a training center caused the death of ten of the club's young soccer players. This terrible event impacted deeply the hearts of everyone linked with this institution. The stars of the basketball team will try to, at least, gift a smile to their fans.
“This triumph has a special meaning because the club is suffering a very difficult moment, the worst event in 123 years. This doesn’t take anything back, but it's a breath of fresh air for everyone in Flamengo; directives, athletes, and fans. We are very hurt because of what happened. By playing like we did, we represented what Flamengo is: a lot of attitude, a lot of passion, and the love for our jersey,” said Argentine point guard Franco Balbi.
For his part, Marquinhos commented: “The fans of the red and black uniform are going through a difficult time because of the recent tragedy. Winning the Cup would give a moment of joy to our fans and all the Carioca people. In the Final we have to give it our all to conquer the trophy.”
De Conti also talked about the tragedy: “Our fans are grieving because of what happened. When these types of situations happen, we all try to put our chins up and have something good to think about. Hopefully we’ll win on Sunday to give, at least, a bit of joy to our fans.”
In 2014, Flamengo defeated Maccabi and raised the FIBA Intercontinental Cup for the first time. The memory of that success is quite alive in the hearts of the Brazilian team’s fans. And just like they filled that stadium then, Anderson expects the same to happen this Sunday, five years later: “The fans remember what they lived that day, it was a very special day for everyone. In that sense, I don't have to ask them to come on Sunday because I know that they’ll come to cheer us on like they did then. We hope to play a good game. We know that it's just one game and that anything can happen. It's being said that AEK are the favorites. We respect the Greek team — they have many important players and titles in their career. But we know the potential we've got. We must have the ability to play calmly in a context where there could be some level of nervousness. We're capable of playing a good game and conquer our much desired second world championship.”