The Olympics have come and gone with two medals being snagged by European nations, Emmet Ryan looks back at how all five performed and what to expect from them in the next couple of international cycles
Five teams enjoyed and endured five very different rides through Rio but, in the end, the two that brought home medals weren’t all that surprising. Thoughts now turn to where this sides stand ahead of next autumn’s EuroBasket 2017 and the subsequent runs to the 2019 World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Qualified – OQT Belgrade
Record – 4-4, silver medal
A second medal in major tournaments in their last three trips and falling only to the eventually unstoppable force that was the USA once the knockout rounds arrived. It was essentially a repeat of what they did in the World Cup in Spain in 2014, one stomping of a non European foe coupled with a tight battle to make the final, a hot start against the Americans but eventually surrendering to a right and proper stomping. This version of Serbia looks a lot more likely to contend for EuroBasket next summer than the one that left Madrid and then flattered to deceive in the latter stages in Lille last autumn. The question, oddly, now is how Nemanja Bjelica slots back in. He’s obviously an extraordinary talent but Sasha Djordevic’s side look so finely tuned it’s not going to be easy to just add another hot player. That’s what we call a good problem and, given the age profile of the roster, the prognosis for EuroBasket 2017 couldn’t be much better although the extra three or four years on Milos could be an issue by the time China 2019 or Tokyo 2020 come around.
Qualified – Won EuroBasket 2015
Record – 5-3, bronze medal
A rough start to the tournament was followed by a run of four wins in a row before going down in dignified style against the USA. The changing of the guard was already in full force, Ricky Rubio’s role increasingly substantially while Jose Calderon was essentially dropped to cheerleader. The obvious questions surround Pau Gasol. In limited usage, Willy Hernangomez looked comfortable on the floor and there’s still plenty left in Marc Gasol’s tank if and when he comes back to the national team. Pau however, and no-one would have blamed him if he retired, insisted after securing bronze that he plans to keep going with the national side. That’s a huge plus for Spain, even if his body isn’t what it was defensively, and has to be positive for the transition through EuroBasket 2017, whatever about the next few tournaments. It’s hard to see Juan Carlos Navarro staying relevant in the national set up with his injury history but he held up pretty well through Rio. A last run at EuroBasket next autumn could be on the cards for the FC Barcelona man.
Please vote for BallinEurope in Blog Awards Ireland
Qualified – OQT Turin
Record – 3-3, 5th
Well that was pleasant. The blend of old guard and new guard got Croatia into the knockout rounds but not quite enough to put them in the mix for a medal in the final reckoning. Everything we thought we knew also seemed confirmed, there needs to be a lot more Mario in terms of usage going forward and the point guard situation remains an issue. Bojan Bogdanovic can fill a role but he’s not the guy to do the things this team needs a PG to do, he’s a guy you use for other stuff. He’s very good at that stuff but long term it’s going to hurt them in knockout games. What, if any, use we see of Marko Arapovic and Dragan Bender next summer is going to be the story to follow. Dario is coming along nicely. They can challenge in 2017 but far more likely to be relevant in 2019 and 2020.
Qualified – OQT Manila
Record – 3-3, 6th
It was the end on paper for Tony Parker in a France jersey but anyone who saw his struggles throughout the campaign last autumn knew his best days with Les Bleus were already behind him. The combination of Nando de Colo and Thomas Heurtel should keep France competitive with anyone in terms of European play going forward while Rudy Gobert’s development continues to impress. All of which counted for very little across this fortnight where France never looked like a medal contender and were easily disposed of by Spain in the quarter finals. It was a limp way for Parker’s international career to end but the production line of young French talent seems reliable enough to keep them at the top table. Still, they will likely need the rub of the green to contend for the title next summer before developing into a more rounded unit as the end of the decade approaches.
Qualified – Second at EuroBasket 2015
Record – 3-3, 7th
Well that was just awful. After opening group play with a comfortable 3-0 run, albeit making hard work of all three wins, Lithuania looked ragged in their subsequent three defeats. The beatings at the hands of Spain and Australia were particularly hard to stomach as at no stage did they look capable of out-thinking their opponents, an aspect Lithuanian sides basically live off. It was a particularly disappointing display for Jonas Valanciunas, having put together three solid summers of work in the run up to this tournament. With the Toronto Raptors man that in itself is an issue, he hasn’t had a break from international duty between youth and national teams since he hit the scene. Stepping away for 2017 would be considered sacrilege but a break from action may be what his body needs to be ready to go back into the grinder in the charge towards Tokyo.