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20 November, 2017
26 February, 2019
Can Serbia finally right their ship against cruising Greece?
02/12/2018
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Can Serbia get back on track, deny Greece moving to 10-0?

BELGRADE (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Serbia find themselves in dire need of a victory in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers but the runners-up at the World Cup in 2014 will have their hands full as they host undefeated Greece (9-0).

Serbia still rank third in Group L with a 5-4 record, but Aleksandar Djordjevic's team has dropped four of their last five and desperately could use a victory to finish the fifth window. Things got more complicated for the Serbs on Friday when they lost at Israel, who improved to 4-5 - the same record that Georgia has.


Serbia's chances against Greece received a boost with the arrival of two high-level point guards in Vasilije Micic and Stefan Jovic, who didn't feature in the Israel game.

Micic knows Greece won't take the game lightly even though they have already booked their ticket to China 2019 and enter the game with a 9-0 record.

"Greece are already qualified for the World Cup but I don't believe they will come with less enthusiasm, although they don’t have their best players with them," he said, referring to Greece being without veteran big man Ioannis Bourousis. "It is very important game for us. We hope for the best."

"GREECE ARE ALREADY QUALIFIED FOR THE WORLD CUP BUT I DON'T BELIEVE THEY WILL COME WITH LESS ENTHUSIASM, ALTHOUGH THEY DON'T HAVE THEIR BEST PLAYERS WITH THEM."- Micic

While Micic has played in four games of the Qualifiers so far, Jovic has been available for just two contests - the ones of the September window. The 28-year-old playmaker is happy to join up for the game against Greece.

"This was the ideal situation for me to stay and help national team. Bayern Munich understood the situation and I'm thankful for allowing me to play for my country," he said.


Djordjevic watched his team lose to Greece 70-63 in Heraklion in the last window. And the game in the Serbian capital will be tough.

"Greece will be a tough opponent. They beat us in Greece. It was a tough game, similar to the Israel game. And this is what is expected," he said. "We hope playing at home that we can get the win but it’s a long way for us."

Serbia will finish up their Group L campaign in the final window at Estonia on February 21 and then at home against Israel on February 24.

Greece coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos meanwhile is aware how difficult the Serbia game will be, especially with them getting back their two playmaking aces and the Greeks losing Bourousis, who returned to his Chinese club Zhejiang Lions.

"SERBIA IS A GREAT BASKETBALL COUNTRY AND A BIG POWERHOUSE ALL OVER THE WORLD. FOR ALL PLAYERS, NOW AND IN PAST YEARS, PLAYING AGAINST SERBIA HAS BEEN SOMETHING SPECIAL. IT IS A SPECIAL GAME."- Athinaiou

"It's going to be a difficult game, but we will fight as we do in every game," Skourtopoulos said. "They have their goals, we have ours. Anything can happen."

Greece guard Ioannis Athinaiou is looking forward to playing a special opponent.

"Serbia is a great basketball country and a big powerhouse all over the world. For all players, now and in past years, playing against Serbia has been something special. It is a special game. They have a great team," he said. "That means nothing though. We will not face the game against Serbia in a different way than we have until now."

"THE TRUTH IS THAT, PLAYING AGAINST ANYONE, THE MOTIVATION IS THE SAME: NOBODY WANTS TO LOSE. WE WILL GO TO BELGRADE TO WIN THE GAME."- Greece guard Giannoulis Larentzakis

Greece guard Giannoulis Larentzakis, who will have the job of trying to stop Micic and Jovic, added that his country does not want to come home with a 9-1 record but would rather remain undefeated.

"All games against Serbia are special. There is a basketball rivalry. Serbians have done a lot in basketball. They have won medals in all competitions and produced many, many high quality players  throughout the years," Larentzakis said. "But the truth is that, playing against anyone, the motivation is the same: nobody wants to lose. We will go to Belgrade to win the game."

FIBA