Qualified Team Focus - Serbia: 2014 finalists hungry for more
MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
Here is the number 6 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, the 2014 World Cup finalists Serbia.
Vidimo se na #FIBAWC 2023! 👋@KSSrbije 🇷🇸 complete the puzzle, as they book the final ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup! 🎟️#FIBAWC x #WinForAll pic.twitter.com/bIzWc9ABrs— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 27, 2023
How did they qualify
Serbia came into the European Qualifiers having lost to Italy in the Final of the FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July 2021 in Belgrade. Having missed the Olympics, Serbia handed the reins to Svetislav Pesic, who guided Yugoslavia to the FIBA EuroBasket 2001 title and the crown at the 2002 World Cup.
Serbia gave their fans plenty of doubt during the qualification campaign but managed to book their ticket on the final game day.
The Qualifiers got off to a wild start as Serbia saw Milos Teodosic collect 21 points and 9 assists in a 101-100 victory at home over Latvia. Serbia lost the second game against Belgium, losing 73-69. In the second window in February 2022, Serbia twice downed Slovakia - 75-63 at home and 71-63 on the road - with Aleksa Avramovic scoring 24 points in the second game.
Serbia could not keep the momentum in the June/July 2022 window as they lost to Latvia 66-59 on the road. And then Serbia scored only 2 points in the final 5 minutes of a 74-73 home loss to Belgium. Serbia found themselves in a major hole entering the Second Round with just a 1-3 record as their two wins over Slovakia were not carried over.
But with their backs against the wall, Serbia had their two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic back for the August 2022 window. Jokic played up to his star status with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in a thrilling 100-94 overtime win over Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo. A crowd of 19,150 fans showed up at Belgrade's Stark Arena to set a new European Qualifiers record, which would be broken a day later. A magical moment.
Serbia followed up the win with another victory, wasting a 21-point lead but prevailing 79-72 at Turkey, thanks to Jokic collecting 24 points and 10 rebounds. The momentum did not carry over though to the FIBA EuroBasket 2022, where Jokic and Co. were eliminated by Italy in the Round of 16 after signing a perfect record in the Group Phase (5-0).
Pesic had his team ready for the November 2022 window and they took care of business with a 74-68 win at Great Britain and beating Turkey 77-76 at home.
That set up the final window in February 2023 needing only a victory to advance. Serbia lost a 13-point lead and ended up losing the first game to Greece, 97-92 on the road in overtime - despite Nikola Milutinov's 24 points. The Serbs finally finished the deal at home in the last game, pulling away in the third quarter for a 101-83 victory over Great Britain with Avramovic scoring 20 points.
Best result at the World Cup
Serbia have now qualified for all five World Cups to be played under the Serbia flag in the post Yugoslavia era. They lost to Spain in the Round of 16 in 2006 and reached the Semi-Finals in 2010, albeit leaving Turkey empty-handed after losing to Turkey in the last four and then to Lithuania in the Third Place Game.
Serbia finally reached the podium in 2014, finishing second to the United States for their best-ever result. They were upended in the Quarter-Finals by Argentina in 2019.
Last World Cup appearances
After reaching the Semi-Finals in 2010, Serbia struggled in the group stage at Spain 2014, losing to France, Brazil and Spain. The Serbians met up with previously undefeated Greece in the Round of 16 and won 90-72. Serbia then rolled past Brazil by 28 points and fought past France 90-85 to reach the Final. Serbia could not really challenge United States in a 129-99 loss but they had their first podium.
In 2019, Serbia beat Angola, Philippines and Italy in the First Round before beating Puerto Rico and losing to Spain in the Second Round. That gave Serbia a Quarter-Finals matchup with Argentina and the Europeans lost 97-87. Serbia bounced back to beat USA in the 5th-8th Classification and then knocked off Czech Republic for fifth place.
Players to watch
Svetislav Pesic will have a tough time figuring out exactly which 12 players he will take to Asia and how they fit together. The nation expects two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic to be the leader of the team. He recently shared how much he enjoyed being with the national team last summer. But there are many other stars who could be on board, including Bogdan Bogdanovic, Boban Marjanovic, Vasilije Micic, Vladimir Lucic and Nemanja Bjelica.
The country's depth is impressive as others include Marko Guduric, Nikola Milutinov, Nikola Kalinic, Filip Petrusev, Vanja Marinkovic, Luka Mitrovic, Nemanja Nedovic, Aleksa Avramovic and Ognjen Jaramaz.
Marko Jagodic-Kuridza and Vanja Marinkovic
Pesic could also look to veterans like captain Marko Jagodic-Kuridza, Stefan Jovic, Milos Teodosic, Danilo Andjusic, Ognjen Dobric, Dusan Ristic and Dejan Davidovac . A couple of youngsters Pesic may bring to Asia for the experience include Aleksa Radanov, Uros Trifunovic, Nikola Jovic, Aleksej Pokusevski and Borisa Simanic.
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:
Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada , Finland, New Zealand and USA.