- National Teams
In the five game groups, one team sits out game day. Today, it was Great Britain’s turn. Tomorrow is the rest day for all the teams, with the second phase starting Wednesday. Of course as long as there’s some serious basketball being played, we have to watch, so no rest day here. It was a good chance to look at how groups C and D penned out and who join GB in their group.
First up it was Finland v Hungary. Finland could lose by 17 and still qualify, regardless of the result later that evening between the Czechs and Swiss. As experts, we predicted a comfortable win for Finland. Of course we couldn’t have been more wrong. Hungary played Finland tight and mostly held on to a small lead. That is, until the fourth quarter. Hungary put a huge run together and with 2 minutes to play they were virtually through with an 18-point lead. A big three by Finland’s thin big man, and some fouls by the Hungarians helped the Fins. In spite of a late three, it wasn’t enough as Finland went through with a 15-point loss—that is, if Switzerland would lose to the imperious Czechs.
The second game of the day: Portugal v Belarus. If Portugal won, then if the Danes beat Croatia by any margin, the Danes would go through and not Croatia. If Belarus won, then the Danes would have to beat Croatia by 7. Still with me? Portugal looked awful and were behind most of the game. But then they got their usual run and took the lead in the fourth quarter. Belarus came back and it looked like overtime. Two very big deciding calls by the referee meant free throws with 4 seconds to go. Portugal hit the first and deliberately missed the second one; Belarus could not get a good shot at the basket and Portugal win this one.
The third game of the day was probably the easiest to call, Switzerland v Czech Republic. Paul and I decided to explore more of the Bulgarian cuisine and it was definitely time for a cold one (see picture). We had some more delightful delicatessen (chips with grated cheese anyone?) and got back in time for the final 37 seconds–Czech Republic by 2! We also saw an incredibly animated Swiss coach who was doing impressive Duco-wronged-by-the-referee impressions. It turned out that the Swiss had led most of the game. If the Swiss won, they’d go through and Finland wouldn’t qualify. The Czechs pulled it out and the Fins had their second lucky escape of the day. The Swiss coach joined us as we were waiting for today’s main event, Croatia v Denmark. His interpretation of what had happened in his game contained no ambiguity — think it’s time to watch the tape for that one.
And finally the main event. We left after three and Croatia up by 25. Either Croatia have found their form just in time or the Danes forgot to put the Croats under any pressure, settling for long jumpers, leaving Croatian shooters wide open, and forgetting to play some transition defense. In any case, it was a non-event.
The results: Great Britain in a group with Finland, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Both Great Britain and the Czech Republic start 1-0, the other two teams 0-1. Great Britain will play Finland on Wednesday, 13.45 local time in the non-airconditioned gym.
The players, meanwhile, practiced in the morning, had meetings, and lots of film to watch. More of the same tomorrow on ‘the rest day.’ Big games ahead.