Serbia are meant to be ahead of Croatia in the development cycle but both see Wednesday’s Olympic quarter final clash as a big chance for a medal this week, writes Emmet Ryan
We’ve been over this territory with Croatia already. This is a team playing with house money and now they are in a game against their arch rivals for a place in the medal rounds. Croatia hasn’t picked up a medal since 1992, taking silver. We were expecting them to be medal contenders in games to come, emphasis on that being the future. Now they are a side that can go from this
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To losing to a Nigeria side without Festus Ezeli or Al-Farouq Aminu to bouncing back and beating Lithuania pretty comfortably. This is not exactly the most consistent side in Rio but if they get hot at the right time, Croatia have the weapons to hang with pretty much anyone.
On the other side there’s a Serbia side that was below its best against Australia but took care of business against the Group A cellar dwellers Venezuela and China while living with France and USA. Oh and Milos did this which is pretty.
While Serbia have been shooting better than Croatia and playing just plain more efficiently than their neighbours, they also know this isn’t going to be a walk. Going back to the 2014 World Cup, when a poor enough group phase was turned into a run to the final by this side, Sasha Djordevic’s charges have too often played to the level of their opponent. When that side is good, Serbia really can turn it on and do some fabulous stuff. It also means that Serbia can get drawn into drag out battles as well. We saw Lithuania outsmart them in Lille and they will be rightly wary of getting caught cold the same way. It’s not like Croatia have anything to lose here.
Right now, as I enjoy the last pleasant evening in Dublin before the weather is due to turn, I’m leaning towards a Serbia wins. When the rain comes, I might well back Croatia’s second-chance creating machine to take it.
Adios Manu, Luis, and Chapu
The last hurrah of Argentina’s golden generation is going to get a good airing out. Much as I’d like to think the core that won gold in 2004 has one more big run in them to shock the USA, it’s not going to happen this time around. There are just too many years in the legs but at least they get that run against the nation they scared into taking the international game seriously.
What Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Manu Ginobili have contributed to international basketball is hard to match. For all three, Wednesday night promises to be a last hurrah in the national jersey. Here’s hoping they can at least give Coach K’s troops a few frights along the way.