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Team in focus - Greece
ATHENS (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is just around the corner. In the lead-up to the biggest international basketball event, we take an individual look at all 24 teams.
FIBA bwin Ranking Men: No. 5
Last participation in the FIBA Basketball World Cup: 2010 (3 wins, 3 defeats; 11th place)
Best result in the history of the FIBA Basketball World Cup: 2nd place (2006)
Result in qualifying tournament for 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup: 11th place at EuroBasket 2013 (4 wins, 4 defeats; Greece received wild card)
Greece needed a wild card to reach the 24-team FIBA Basketball World Cup but no one will be underestimating them in Spain.
Entering the tournament with the No. 5 spot in the FIBA bwin Ranking Men, the Greeks are eight years removed from their famous upset of the United States in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA World Championship.
Without the protagonists of that team and with a different coach, the Greeks still have strong link to 2006 in Nikos Zisis.
Coach Fotis Katsikaris, who has replaced Andrea Trinchieri after his one year at the helm, has a new generation of Greeks who are hoping to prove they are just as good as the last.
Youngsters Kostas Papanikolaou, Evangelos Mantzaris, Kostas Sloukas and Nick Calathes already have vital games with the national team under the belt and will combine with more senior players like Giannis Bourousis, Zisis, Georgios Printezis and Kostas Kaimakoglou to make Greece one of the top sides in a Group B that also has Puerto Rico, Senegal, the Philippines, Argentina and Croatia.
The youngsters' stars are on the rise.
Since shining for title-winning Greek teams at youth level, Papanikolaou, Mantzaris and Sloukas have celebrated back-to-back Turkish Airlines Euroleague triumphs (2012 and 2013) with Olympiacos, and Calathes, after scooping the honor as the Eurocup's top player (2013) with Unics Kazan, has launched his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Milwaukee Bucks wing Giannis Antetokounmpo has caused the biggest buzz in Athens.
The 19-year-old who stands 2.11m in height is extremely athletic and should provide highlight reel plays in Spain, although it remains to be seen how many minutes Katsikaris gives him.
Bourousis' first season at Real Madrid did not go as well as he'd hoped, with the club only managing a Copa del Rey triumph and runners-up finishes in the Euroleague and the Spanish Liga Endesa.
Much will depend on his presence in the low post, and the performances of power forwards Printezis and Kaimakoglou.
Each has been in the basketball wars before with Greece and will have to be at their best, especially on the boards in the knockout round should they advance.
Since reaching the podium at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland, Greece have come up short of the medals.
Their results the last two summers have been disappointing, especially 2012 when Greece fell in the dying seconds to Nigeria at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to miss out on the London Games.
The feel-good factor will return with success in Spain.