Qualified Team Focus - Slovenia: Luka Doncic did it in 2021, can he do it again?

    Slovenia have seen their last two summers end disappointingly after Quarter-Finals losses at the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 and FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. Now they want to reach Paris.

    MIES (Switzerland) - It is now time to meet the six teams in this FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 Greece with the dream of becoming Olympic champions this summer.

    Here is the number 11 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, the 2020 Olympics Semi-Finalists Slovenia.

    How they qualified

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    Slovenia were back at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 after missing the 2019 edition in China. The Europeans opened the tournament in Asia with comfortable wins over Venezuela, Georgia and Cape Verde to claim the top spot in Group F.

    In the Second Round, Slovenia picked up a big victory over Australia 91-80 that would eventually guarantee them a spot in the Knockout Phase. Slovenia ended group play with a 100-71 loss to eventual champions Germany.

    Slovenia could not rebound from that and overcome a highly-motivated Canada team in the Quarter-Finals as they lost 100-89. Slovenia were beaten in the Classification 5-8 by Lithuania but did finish the tournament on a high note with an 89-85 win over Italy to take seventh place.

    That qualified Slovenia, however, for the OQTs as one of the best 16 remaining teams that did not advance directly to the Summer Olympics.

    Record at the Olympics

    Disappointment after leaving the Tokyo Olympics without a medal

    Appearances: 1 -2020 (4th) Medals: 0

    Recent OQT history*

    *Since 2008

    Slovenia celebrating after winning the OQT in Kaunas in 2021

    Slovenia will be playing in their third OQT and the first two have been a split bag of results.

    In 2008, Slovenia were in Athens and beat Korea and Canada to take first place in the group stage. The Balkan side's dreams of the Olympics were dashed one game later when they lost 81-70 to Puerto Rico in the Quarter-Finals.

    The most recent OQTs for the Tokyo Olympics saw Slovenia make history. They were playing in Kaunas, Lithuania and rolled past Angola and Poland to secure the top spot in the group stage. Luka Doncic and co. downed Venezuela by 28 points in the Semi-Finals to reach the Final against the hosts Lithuania. Slovenia took care of business and knocked off the Baltic side 96-85 to make the Olympics for the first time. Luka Doncic delivered an amazing triple-double in the Final with 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

    Last Olympics appearance

    After going through the OQT, Slovenia went to Tokyo full of excitement and beat Argentina 118-100 in their first game. Slovenia followed that with a 116-81 win over Japan and then downed Spain 95-87.

    In the Knockout Phase, Slovenia faced Germany in the Quarter-Finals and had little trouble in grabbing a 24-point triumph. Slovenia's Semi-Finals showdown with France was a thriller and Slovenia's hopes of the Gold Medal Game ended when Nicolas Batum blocked Klemen Prepelic's attempted game-winnning layup at the buzzer of a 90-89 France victory. Slovenia's disappointment carried over to the Bronze Medal Game as they lost to Australia 107-93 to leave Tokyo empty-handed.

    The OQT Group Phase

    Slovenia will not have an easy road to the 2024 Olympics as the OQT Piraeus features some top level teams. The journey will start with a Balkan showdown against Croatia before taking on New Zealand.

    The top two will advance to the Semi-Finals and waiting there for Slovenia would be one of Dominican Republic, Egypt or hosts Greece. And Slovenia would still have to win the Final, which would be a tough encounter as well. One thing can be said about Slovenia if they do reach the Paris Games, Doncic and the team will be battle-tested.

    Slovenia OQT games

    vs Croatia (July 2) vs New Zealand (July 3)

    Check out Slovenia's Group Phase Opponents:

    Qualified Team Focus - Croatia: Starpower aplenty as Hrvatska look towards Olympics

    Qualified Team Focus - New Zealand: Tall Blacks hungry to end 20-year Olympic wait

    Players to watch

    Luka Doncic has already tasted major success on the international stage, winning FIBA EuroBasket 2017. He was still just 18 years old and that is going on seven years ago already. The NBA superstar will likely use as fuel and motivation the loss to Canada in last summer's FIBA World Cup Quarter-Finals and the defeat at the hands of Poland at the same stage at EuroBasket 2022.

    Luka Magic

    Luka Magic in FIBA basketball

    No team of course can succeed with just one player and Doncic will need help - and he will have to allow his teammates to help him. Goran Dragic will not be at his side as he plans on retiring from basketball after the 2023-24 NBA season. Klemen Prepelic is still there as are Jaka Blazic, Vlatko Cancar, Aleksej Nikolic, Edo Muric and Ziga Dimec - all who were part of that EuroBasket 2017 title-winning team - in addition to Zoran Dragic, Gregor Hrovat and Mike Tobey.

    The next generation of Slovenian talents are slowly getting ready to take over some responsibility such as Ziga Sama, Gregor Glas and Bine Prepelic.

    But this team will only go as far as Luka Doncic can take them.

    Qualified Team Focus series

    We've checked out all teams ready to step out as part of our Qualified Team Focus series. You can take a look at Croatia, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Greece, and New Zealand, and Slovenia.


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