25 August, 2023
10 September
43 Thanasis Antetokounmpo (GRE)
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Qualified Team Focus - Greece: Is Greece more dangerous than ever?

MIES (Switzerland) - It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months. Next up is the number nine team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, the 2006 World Cup finalists and FIBA EuroBasket 2005 champions Greece.

How did they qualify

Greece went through a tremendously eventful qualification campaign, which saw Hellas lock up their spot at the 2023 World Cup with one window to spare.

But there were plenty of headlines from the time when former Rick Pitino assistant coach Sotiris Manolopoulos was installed at the helm of the national team until two-time EuroLeague champion Dimitris Itoudis took over was coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo and his two brothers.

Greece's campaign in Group B started with a real shocker as they went to Great Britain and were upset 78-69 - for their first loss against Team GB in 37 years. Manolopoulos' troops responded in fine form in the second window, grabbing a sweep of Turkey.

The first game in Athens saw Greece waste a 10-point fourth quarter lead before Kostas Papanikolaou drained two free throws with 3.0 seconds left for a 72-71 win. Dimitrios Agravanis and Georgios Papagiannis were the heroes of first two windows, and Agravanis torched Turkey for 22 points and 11 rebounds in the second game - a 76-67 win in front of 14,500 fans at the Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul.

The next two months - March and April 2022 - saw long-serving international Georgios Printezis announce his retirement from basketball and Itoudis be announced as Greece's new head coach.

Greece advanced to the Second Round with a 3-1 record as their Gameday 2 win over Belarus and Gameday 5 game against the eastern European side were annulled and cancelled, respectively, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Major highlights followed in the fourth window in August 2022 as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo arrived in the Greek squad - just in time for the epic showdown against fellow two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and Serbia in Belgrade.

Both the game and superstar matchup lived up to the hype, albeit Greece losing 100-94 in overtime in front of a European Qualifiers record crowd of 19,150 fans. Jokic had 29 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists and Antetokounmpo broke the European Qualifiers scoring record with 40 points to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

The attendance record was broken three days later as 19,443 fans packed the OAKA for Giannis Antetokounmpo's first official national team game in Greece - a 17-point win over Belgium in which the NBA star had 26 points and 7 rebounds.

After a disappointing Quarter-Finals exit to hosts Germany in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022, Greece were picked apart by Latvia in the first game of the November 2022 window but finished the deal of qualification with a thrilling 72-70 win at Belgium.

A record-setting 19,443 fans packed the OAKA to see Giannis Antetokounmp and Greece

Best result at the World Cup

Greece will be playing at the World Cup for the ninth time and the fifth in a row. They reached the Semi-Finals in 1994 and 1998 but lost both times and then went home empty-handed after losing in the Third Place Game.

The Greeks' generation of Theo Papaloukas, Vassilis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, Nikos Zisis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis beat the United States in the 2006 Semi-Finals but then lost to Spain in the Final for second place - the country's best ever result.


Last World Cup appearances

After reaching the Semi-Finals in 1994 and 1998 and then grabbing silver in 2006, Greece have failed to get back into the top eight since. They lost to Spain in the Round of 16 in 2010, and after going undefeated in the Group Phase in 2014 they were knocked off by Serbia at the same stage.

In the 2019 World Cup in China, Greece lost to Brazil for a 2-1 record in the first group. Hellas lost by 16 points to United States to start the second group stage and beat Czech Republic by seven points but just missed out on the Quarters-Finals by finishing second in a three-way tie with the Czechs and Brazil for third place.

Players to watch

On July 20, the national federation announced a 22-man preliminary roster.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who featured at the last two World Cups, had his best performance for Greece last summer at FIBA EuroBasket 2022,  averaging a tournament-best 29.3 points per game. He had 41 in a Group Phase victory over Ukraine. Two of his brother, Kostas and Thanasis are also on the list.

On August 11, Giannis announced on his platforms that his health prevent him from participating in the event. A tough blow for his National Team.

Greece have listed Thomas Walkup who  has shone in Europe the past several seasons. The 1.93m (6’4”) point guard made a big splash with MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in 2017-18 in Germany and the Basketball Champions League and has since played for Zalgiris and more recently, Olimpiacos.

In addition to veterans Kostas Papanikolaou and Ioannis Papapetrou, Greece have Giannoulis Larentzakis, and some players that took center stage in their amazing overtime win against Serbia in the European Qualifiers.