27 Jul
    10 Aug 2024

    Qualified Team Focus - Serbia: Can Jokic help bring home first gold?

    MIES (Switzerland) - Serbia lost in the Final at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. Their ambitions for Paris 2024 are very high.

    MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament Paris 2024 was held on March 19. It is now time to meet the teams that have already qualified for the Olympics with the dream of becoming Olympic champions this summer.

    Here is the number 4 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, the World Cup 2023 finalists and 2016 Olympic silver medalists Serbia. The Europeans will be competing in the Olympics for the second time.

    How they qualified


    Before the World Cup started, Serbia were not heavy favorite to reach the podium but legendary head coach Svetislav Pesic implemented an effective team strategy and a very impressive defensive pattern. The Serbs started with a 42-point blowout of China and then defeated Puerto Rico by 17 points. The final First Round game was a 32-point victory against South Sudan.

    The Second Round stage started with a surprise as Italy edged Serbia 78-76, with Pesic's team giving up a 16-point lead. Serbia bounced back in strong fashion with a 23-point triumph over the Dominican Republic to finish the group behind Italy. In the Quarter-Finals, Serbia took care of business by beating Lithuania 87-68 and followed that with a most impressive 95-86 victory over Canada in the Semi-Finals.

    Serbia's title hopes were dashed in the Final though as they lost 83-77 to Germany.  The game was tight for the first 25 minutes when Germany started pulling away and Serbia could not make it back.  By reaching the Final, Serbia guaranteed themselves a spot at the Olympics as one of the top two European finishers at the FIBA World Cup.

    Record at the Olympics


    Appearances: 1 -2016 (2nd)
    Medals: 1 - 🥈(2016)

    Last appearance

    Serbia have an illustrious history at the Olympics in their past as part of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro. The country has only appeared once in the Olympic Games under the Serbia flag. That came in 2016 when Sasa Djordjevic guided the country to the silver medal.

    Serbia went through the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Belgrade prior to the Rio Olympics, defeating Puerto Rico 108-77 to qualify for their first Olympics as Serbia.

    The Serbs started the Rio Games with a comfortable win over Venezuela but then faltered with a 15-point loss to Australia which was followed by a 76-75 defeat against France and a 94-91 loss against USA. Serbia finished the group strong with a 34-point victory against China to take fourth place in the group stage.

    In the Quarter-Finals against Croatia, Serbia won the third quarter 34-14 but were forced to fend off a major comeback attempt by Croatia to win 86-83. Serbia got revenge on Australia in the Semi-Finals, conceding only 14 points in the first half of an 87-61 triumph over the Boomers.

    Serbia were no match for USA in the Gold Medal Game though as they lost the middle two quarters 60-28 and ended up accepting a 96-66 loss. But Djordjevic and co. had done their job and went home with a silver medal around their necks.

    The Group Phase 


    Serbia's Group Phase tips off with an absolute highlight as they take on USA as one of the top games of the Group Phase.  The two basketball superpowers have a legacy full of highlights including USA beating Serbia in the 2014 World Cup Final and the 2016 Olympics gold medal game. With this game likely to decide first place in the group, it is expected to highlight some of the best players in the world playing at the highest level.

    Serbia's next game will be against the winner of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament Puerto Rico. The biggest favorites going into that OQT are Italy, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. And Pesic's team finish the group play against South Sudan - the team that will be making their Olympic debut just one summer after making their FIBA Basketball World Cup debut. Serbia beat South Sudan last summer by 32 points.

    Serbia Group Phase games

    vs USA (July 28)
    vs Winner OQT Puerto Rico (July 31)
    vs South Sudan (August 3) 

    Players to watch

     Nikola Jokic

    It seems probable that Serbia superstar Nikola Jokic will come to the Olympics. The Denver Nuggets big man would give Pesic so many options how to play.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic is a superstar in his own right and will be one of the leaders once again. There are also the likes of Vasilije Micic, Marko Guduric, Aleksa Avramovic and Ognjen Dobric. Nikola Jovic has developed in the USA, while veterans like Vladimir Lucic, Nikola Kalinic and Nemanja Nedovic cannot be forgotten. Neither can Filip Petrusev and Dejan Davidovac, who are both great players in their own right and fit themselves into the team.

    Serbia's immovable force in the middle:  Nikola Milutinov

    One more crucial piece to the puzzle will be Nikola Milutinov, the center who was an unstoppable force in the middle at the FIBA World Cup. This list shows just how many choices from which Coach Pesic has to choose.

    Qualified Team Focus series

    During coming weeks and months, we will continue to check out all teams aiming for a medal at Paris 2024 as part of our Qualified Team Focus series. Check out the first installment: USA, Germany.




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