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19 February, 2024
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Upset alert: Who pulled off the biggest shock of the window?

MUNICH (Germany) - These days it's next to impossible to even estimate what qualifies as an upset. However, the FIBA World Ranking, presented by NIKE serves as a reference point to sort out the upsets.

There were exactly 10 instances which qualify as upsets in the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers first window, 10 matchups where the better-ranked team dropped a game in February.

Here is the full list in order of differential in World Ranking:

# TEAM
OPPOSITION RESULT DIFFERENCE
IN RANKING

1.

North Macedonia (59th) Poland (15th) 96-71 -44
2. Bulgaria (45th) Germany (3rd) 67-62 -42

3.

Belgium (39th) Spain (2nd) 58-53 -37

4.

Denmark (58th) Georgia (23rd) 75-69 -35

5.

Estonia (44th) Lithuania (10th) 65-59 -34

6.

Portugal (54th) Ukraine (35th) 79-77 -19

7.

Latvia (8th) Spain (2nd) 79-75 -6

8.

Iceland (48th) Hungary (43rd) 70-65 -5

9.

Sweden (49th) Bulgaria (45th) 84-70 -4

10.

Great Britain (53rd) Netherlands (52nd) 98-94 -1

 

 

We will take a closer look at all upsets that included a World Ranking difference of more than five places:

2011 Semi-Finalists > 2022 Semi-Finalists

POL Poland 71
MKD North Macedonia 96

Back in 2011, North Macedonia had one of the craziest runs in modern basketball history, storming through a star studded field to reach the Semi-Finals, upsetting the heavily favored Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals.

Back in 2022, Poland had one of the craziest runs in modern basketball history, storming through a star studded field to reach the Semi-Finals, upsetting the heavily favored Slovenia in the Quarter-Finals.

The two Cinderella nations met up in 2024, but the feeling was more 2011 than anything else. The red and yellow colored the arena, North Macedonia not only defeated Poland, but done so by 25 points, on the road, too.


Nenad Dimitrijevic scored 32 points, creating an upset of 44 places in the rankings - the largest one in the February games in Europe.

World champions of what?

BUL Bulgaria 67
GER Germany 62

That green arena in Botevgrad is a tricky place. Maybe Bulgaria haven't won all of their games, but they made more storied national teams struggle over there, creating a lot of memorable moments for the local fans.

The crowning part was in February 2024. Germany came to town as the reigning world champions, winning the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 in Manila, Philippines, with a perfect record, too. Codi Miller-McIntyre and his teammates do not care about that.

 

Bulgaria had arguably one of the best fourth quarters in their history, holding Germany to just 62 points on the day and claiming a five-point win that puts both teams at 1-1 after the first batch of games.

It was a 42-place upset according to the rankings, the second highest in February.

Belgium defeat Spain, again

BEL Belgium 58
ESP Spain 53

Coach Dario Gjergja and his players would probably point at the last FIBA EuroBasket and ask, "is this really an upset?" Once again, the Lions were the black cats for Spain, picking up their second straight win over the reigning EuroBasket champs.

Belgium won the game 83-73 in Tbilisi, Georgia during the group stage of that event, and now crawled back from a double digit deficit to witness the veteran leaders rise to the occasion. Retin Obasohan and Pierre-Antoine Gillet created something from nothing offensively, Belgium won the game 58-53.


With a difference of 37 spots between them in the rankings, it was the third biggest upset of the campaign.

Make your (Den)mark

DEN Denmark 76
GEO Georgia 69

Our slogan for the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 is "Make your mark," hence the word play in the headline. Can't spell Denmark without a mark, the nation is falling in love with basketball so fast and the dream of making the Final Round is no longer just a dream.

It's just around the corner, judging by Denmark's first two Qualifiers games. Gabriel Iffe Lundberg and his crew defeated Georgia at home, in front of a nice crowd, too, before torturing Finland on the road and nearly grabbing a 2-0 start.


With Finland owning a ticket to the Final Round as hosts, the matchup with Georgia could be crucial for Denmark, since the other team in the group is Serbia, the finalist from the last World Cup. Two of Serbia, Denmark and Georgia will advance, one will get eliminated, and Denmark are off to a flying start in that triangle.

The difference between the two teams before the Qualifiers? Denmark were 35 spots behind Georgia.

Baltic bragging rights

EST Estonia 65
LTU Lithuania 59

Lithuania were the undisputed leaders of Baltic basketball since the 1990s. Latvia did manage to tilt the ranking a bit with their fabulous FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 run, and Estonia did not want to feel left out, so they defeated Lithuania on Monday.


To describe how big of an upset this one was, there's no need to look at the World Rankings. Instead, let's just share the fact that this was Estonia's first ever win over Lithuania, after going 0-8 in their past matchups.

First win since 2016 for Portugal

UKR Ukraine 77
POR Portugal 79

The Baltic theme continues with this one, because the last double-digit ranking upset happened in Riga, Latvia. That's where Ukraine played host to Portugal, and set the stage for the biggest win in nearly eight years.

Travante Williams broke the deadlock on Portugal's final possession, giving the nation their first FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers win since September 2016.

 

 

Just to put in perspective how long ago that was, here are some sports news from September 2016: Nico Rosberg was winning F1 races with Mercedes; Man City defeated Man United 2-1 at Old Trafford with a new manager, you may have heard of him, a man called Pep Guardiola; a new continental competition called the Basketball Champions League started; while that guy Cristiano Ronaldo refused to celebrate his goal for Real Madrid against his former club Sporting CP in the other Champions League.

That long ago. A 19-place upset for Portugal on Sunday, or an eight-year upset for Portugal on Sunday.

More Baltic? More Baltic!

ESP Spain 75
LAT Latvia 79

Back in 2021, Luca Banchi was hired as the head coach of Latvia. He then went to his fellow Italian coach Sergio Scariolo to observe the whole system Scariolo set up in Spain, from the youth national teams all the way to the top.

Banchi had a hope of creating a similar system in Latvia, but he probably had no idea the progress would happen so fast. He then went on to stun Scariolo and Spain at the World Cup, eliminating them in the Second Round, and as if that wasn't enough, Banchi was also the man who replaced Scariolo at Virtus Bologna in Italy.


The friendship is now put to test after Banchi and his Latvian stars spoiled the return of Ricky Rubio in front of 10,500 fans in Zaragoza.

Quick aside - since Luca Banchi took over, Latvia are the winningest team in the world. Do we consider this an upset then?

The others

The remaining three wins were all by five places or less, including a neighboring Great Britain win over the Netherlands. The FIBA World Ranking, presented by NIKE will keep on changing, the teams will go up and come back down, but with the way February went, best be prepared for part two of this article come November.


FIBA