Another Greece v USA World Cup showdown on cards after Manila Draw
ATHENS (Greece) - There is an ambitious mentality for Greece's players, coaches and fans heading into big tournaments and that will be true this summer in the Philippines.
After Saturday's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Draw presented by Wanda in Manila, Greece will follow their opening day game against Jordan with a clash against pre-Tournament favorites USA.
They will wrap things up against New Zealand, an opponent that is always problematic.
New Zealand's World Cup participations date back to 2002, when they reached the Semi-Finals. In 2019, Greece faced the Tall Blacks and had to dig deep to win, 103-97.
If Greece do progress, showdowns with the top two teams from Group D, which consists of Lithuania, Montenegro, Mexico and Egypt, would be next.
"I would say for sure it's a tough group (Group C)," said Greece national team manager Nikos Zisis, who was at the Draw.
"From my point, it's very positive that we are going to stay in Manila, in the Philippines, and we're not going to have additional travel during the tournament.
"But, okay, in these kinds of tournaments, you need to take one game at a time. Obviously the big favorite of the group is USA, the big favorite of the tournament.
"There are also a couple of other teams that are very good, and especially New Zealand."
The USA, gold medal winners at the Tokyo Olympics, were seventh at the 2019 World Cup in China. They won the title at the events in 2010 and 2014.
They have a big history with Greece, too. The Greeks won their battle 2006 World Cup Semi-Final in Japan, 101-95.
The USA hit back two years later with a 92-69 thumping of Greece at the Beijing Olympics. More recently, at the last World Cup, USA defeated Greece in the Second Round, 69-53.
Even Jordan, who are No. 33 in the FIBA World Ranking compared to Greece (No. 9), USA (No. 2) and New Zealand (No. 26), are dangerous.
When current coach Wesam Al-Sous was a player in the team at the 2010 World Cup, Jordan nearly upset Australia on opening day. They led 74-68 lead with 1:23 but fell, 76-75.
IT'S OBVIOUS WE HAVE (IN GROUP C) NUMBER ONE, UNDISPUTED TOURNAMENT FAVORITE, THE USA.
A few games later Jordan trailed Argentina by just several points in the fourth quarter before losing, 88-79. At the 2019 World Cup, Jordan stormed back from a 15-point deficit to lead the Dominican Republic on opening day in China, 74-73, with less than two minutes to go, but slipped to a 80-76 defeat.
Coach Dimitris Itoudis led the national team for the first time last year at EuroBasket 2022 when Greece lost to hosts Germany in the Quarter-Finals
"The first thing we want is to have as many athletes as possible available at the end of July, to be healthy I mean, and this is my main wish until the end of their obligations with their clubs, so that everyone can then put themselves at the disposal of the national team," Greece coach Itoudis said to Gazzetta.gr.
"At first glance, I think we are going to a difficult crossover for the continuation (to the Round of 16) and probably with the presence of the Lithuanians, since for the first group it's obvious we have number one, undisputed tournament favorite, the USA.
USA beat Greece in the Second Round of the 2019 World Cup in China, 69-53
"We may not know its composition yet, but it will certainly be a very good team."
Zisis understands the mindset that is required for players and teams to have their best chance of success.
He played for Greece from 2001 through EuroBasket 2015, before retiring from the national team. Zisis stresses the importance of focusing on the task that is right in front of you and not to think too far ahead.
And like coach Itoudis, he's hopeful Greece will have as many players as possible for selection.
"Most important because the season is still in process is that our players are healthy," he said. "We have spoken with most of them and we have the impression that all of them will be present. That's very important that we unite. We're going to try and make people back home in Greece proud. That's the goal."
In remarks to Novasports.gr, Zisis mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"Giannis' season in the NBA is over, but we have other very high quality players still competing," Zisis said. "The meeting with Giannis Antetokounmpo was about two months ago, we haven't talked to him yet since the Bucks were eliminated (from the play-offs), but we believe he is with us."
Greece held on to beat a resilient, high-scoring New Zealand team at the last World Cup, 103-97
One huge positive that can't be overstated is the fact that Itoudis now has one summer with Greece under his belt.
"Speaking as an ex-player, I believe in having experience in these kinds of tournaments," Zisis said. "It's important to take one game at a time, and trying to find your balance and your chemistry during the tournament and then you try to peak at the right moment, which is the knockout games.
"You can never predict how far you can go, you need to have a lot of things in consideration. It's important that we already made a start with coach Itoudis last year. We have a core of players that have played together for many years. So, we are optimistic that good things can happen."
"It's important that we already made a start with coach Itoudis last year," Zisis said.
Itoudis, meanwhile, recognized the terrific work done by the coaches and players that allowed Greece to successful navigate a very difficult European Qualifiers campaign.
"It is an honor to be at another World Cup and indeed having secured qualification before the window process was completed," he said, "something that was achieved with the efforts of all the athletes and coaches..."