Qualified Team Focus - Lithuania: Can Sabonis and Valanciunas take their team to France?

    MIES (Switzerland) - Lithuania missed the Tokyo Olympics and the Europeans hope they can reach the 2024 Games In Paris. To get there though, Lithuania must win the OQT Puerto Rico.

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

    Here is the number 10 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, the three-time Olympic bronze medalists Lithuania.

    How they qualified

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    Lithuania went to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 hungry for their first podium finish since third place in 2010. And the team started well with wins over Egypt, Mexico and Montenegro to take first place in their first round group. The Second Round saw them knock off Greece by 25 points and then shock United States 110-104 in a game for the ages to grab first place in the Group J. 

    Lithuania's cross-over opponent in the Quarter-Finals was Serbia, and the Serbs played a stronger game and beat the Baltic side 87-68. Lithuania rebounded and defeated Slovenia in Classification 5-8 before losing to neighbors Latvia by 35 points in the game for Fifth Place.

    That qualified Lithuania, 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

    Lithuania at the 1992 Olympics

    Appearances: 7 -1992 (3rd); 1996 (3rd); 2000 (3rd); 2004 (4th); 2008 (4th); 2012 (8th); 2016 (7th)
    Medals: 3 - 🥉(1992, 1996, 2000)

    Recent OQT history*

    * Since 2008

    Saras Jasikevicius and Jonas Valanciunas embrace after reaching 2012 Olympics

    Lithuania have played in two OQTs thus far - one time advancing onto the Olympics and the second time failing to move on.

    In Venezuela in 2012, Lithuania knocked off the host side Venezuela but lost to Nigeria in the group stage, moving on nonetheless as the first placed team in the group. The Europeans defeated Puerto Rico in the Quarter-Finals and rolled past Dominican Republic in the Semi-Finals to book their ticket to the London Games.

    Lithuania hosted an OQT in Kaunas for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and once again beat Venezuela in the opening game, following that with a win over Korea. Lithuania then defeated Poland comfortably in the Semi-Finals but met up with Slovenia in the Final. Lithuania were no match for Luka Doncic and co., losing 96-85 to miss out on the Tokyo Games - ending a stretch of seven straight appearances.

    Last Olympics appearance 

    Lithuania entered the Rio Games in 2016 having finished second at the FIBA EuroBasket 2015. In Brazil, the Baltic side started the tournament with wins over Brazil, Nigeria and Argentina, but were then walloped by 50 points to Spain and also got nipped by Croatia.

    The 3-2 record gave Lithuania third place in the group and had them cross over with Australia in the Quarter-Finals as the second-best team in the other group. Lithuania, who in all seven Olympics appearances reached at least the top eight, could not keep up with the Oceania powers, trailing 48-30 at halftime and ended up losing 90-64. In the end, Lithuania finished seventh place.

    The OQT Group Phase 

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    Lithuania's road to the 2024 Olympics will go through Puerto Rico as they play in the OQT - San Juan. Their opening game will be against Mexico - a team that the Europeans beat 96-66 in the group stage of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. The second game in Group A will be against Côte d'Ivoire.

    Waiting on the other side of the OQT are the trio of hosts Puerto Rico, Italy and Bahrain. Lithuania would face of them in the Semi-Finals with the next game being the decider - if Lithuania can avoid missing back-to-back Olympics.

    Lithuania OQT games

    vs Mexico (July 2)
    vs Côte d'Ivoire (July 3)

    Players to watch

    Lithuania will have the best big man duo in the OQT with the NBA tandem of Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas - though Sabonis did not play at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. Sabonis' passing ability helps them work together on the court at the same time.

    Another major key to Lithuania's chances will be young point guard Rokas Jokubaitis. The playmaker is growing more and more in status and will be needed to help get the NBA big men in good spots to succeed.

    But there is more talent to his team. Deividas Sirvydis is a real weapon from the wing, Ignas Brazdeikis has now gotten some tournaments under his belt with the team and there are the top notch veterans like Tadas Sedekerskis, Rokas Giedraitis, Marius Grigonis, Donatas Motiejunas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Lukas Lekavicius and Arnas Butkevicius.

    All in all, Lithuania must always be considered a contender in any tournament, and this summer that will be the same.

    Qualified Team Focus series

    During coming weeks and months, we will continue to check out all teams ready to step out as part of our Qualified Team Focus series. You can already take a look at Italy here.

    FIBA

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