Only a few days are left before the Olympic Games start in Beijing. On 8/8/2008 at 8.08, the opening ceremony will be the start of another exciting event. And of course, the basketball tournament will be our main target here at BallinEurope.com.
For years now, Team USA has tried to recover and win the gold medal to bring Olympic success back to the United States. And even despite some big wins in the preparation, the players don’t say that the Gold Medal is their goal. This is a pretty different approach for a basketball nation that until now always considered themselves as the favorites in any competition in which they participated. I really hope that the players mean this seriously and don’t take the victory for granted. If not, they may end up like this:
Still, the main favorite for many is Spain. The team built around Pau Gasol is undefeated since the loss in Eurobasket 2007 and has high high hopes for Beijing. The current world champions have some similarities with Team USA as they are also destroying their opponents in preparation: Portugal (+49), Russia (+35), Lithuania (+25) or Argentina (+25) had no chance against the Reds, and I’m not even talking about their results against Latvia and Hungary. For the fans, it is a similar situation, as 84% think that Spain wins a medal and even 44.5% are going for the gold medal. For Team USA, 86% of voters think that the gold medal will be the result. So for all the Spanish fans, don’t overestimate your team and you better remember this clip below as not happening again:
The only team among the favorites that has faced some real competition so far is Greece. As they had to go through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the guys around Papaloukas and Diamantidis showed during the days in Athens that they are ready to go for the ultimate challenge of this generation. And they have the ultimate weapon back to beat Team USA in Sofoclis Schortsanitis. By watching the highlight clip from the Athens tournament, the Greeks don’t look less impressive than Team USA or Spain at the moment:
Of course, there are other candidates to win a medal, but these three teams look for me like the favorites at the moment. Australia, Argentina and Lithuania are legit candidates for a semifinal spot, while Germany and Croatia may be a bit behind. And then there is of course the Chinese host, but they will start directly the tournament against the USA and will probably know their real level right there.
And well, I nearly forgot to mention them, and I guess a lot of other people have the same reaction. There is a current European champion participating in the tournament: Russia. Don’t be surprised if they come up with a huge tournament and improving throughout the days in China.