Serbia always better the second time around
RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - The way the United States blew Serbia away in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final, it's hard to imagine a different winner on Sunday in the Olympic Gold Medal Game the sides are going to play.
Serbia's players, though, are looking at things differently. And they should.
Serbia are gearing up for another showdown with the USA
The Balkan nation is proving to be tough to beat twice in a tournament under coach Sasha Djordjevic. In fact, it hasn't happened.
France (74-73) and Brazil (81-73) defeated Serbia in the Group Phase of the World Cup but Djordjevic's team shifted into a higher gear in the knockout stage and got revenge against both.
After thumping Greece in the Round of 16, Serbia walloped Brazil (84-56) and then edged France, 90-85, to reach the title game.
That result has set up another encounter with the United States, a team that scraped a 94-91 win against them in Group A. What has most of the fans excited is that Serbia have a chance to write a much different script to what happened two years ago when the Americans embarrassed them, 129-92.
"We're not frightened of anybody," Serbia forward Nikola Kalinic said. "We're going to play a better game than we did two years ago. We're going to watch video of the Group Phase game, so we'll prepare. We're going to go out there and at least not let them win that easily. They're going to have to earn it."
Australia discovered on Friday that a prepared and focused Serbia is lethal.
"We let them beat us physically the first time," Kalinic said. "But we weren't going to let anyone beat us physically two times in a row in one championship. We went out there motivated, played physical basketball and that gave us the result."
Even if they fall to the USA, Serbia will leave with a silver medal. That is not something Djordjevic wants his players to contemplate.
Serbia were too good once again in a rematch
"I have to not let them be satisfied right now," Djordjevic said after the game. "The second we get in the (Olympic) Village, I will let them know they have to rest, practice hard, get ready for the game."
Serbia's defeat to the Americans in Madrid was not ruinous. It didn't kill the players. If anything, it seems to have made them stronger. They finished fourth at EuroBasket 2015 and then qualified for the Olympics. It has given them another shot at beating the USA in a huge game.
"My goal was, every two years, to play against the USA team, to understand what it takes to play against champions like that," Djordjevic said. "They have the all-stars and the coaching staff. It will be an honor but, trust me, it will not be a pleasure."