PRAGUE (FIBA U19 World Championship) - Serbia coach Dejan Mijatovic was pleasantly surprised his team came out so strong in their 65-50 victory over Brazil to open the FIBA U19 World Championship.
The Serbians, after all, had missed two practices and still didn't have all their baggage despite being in Prague for two days.
"We had very difficult problems before the game. I'm proud of my guys because we were very positive in the first game and very focused. Nothing else mattered," said Mijatovic after the victory in Group C action.
"After all the problems I expected a tougher game but we concentrated 100 percent and that was the key."
The Serbians arrived in Prague on June 25 without their luggage, which was stuck somewhere at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after the team had missed their connecting flight from Belgrade due to passport control issues.
The team took two separate flights from the French capital to Prague, only to arrive without their baggage. The equipment still hadn't arrived in full by the opening day of the tournament and forced Serbia to miss two practice sessions.
With the gear still not in the Czech Republic, the Serbian federation packed shirts that teams would normally wear during friendlies and had them driven 10 hours from Belgrade.
The Serbians' plight was not lost to the other teams in Prague and Spain graciously lent some of their shorts to Serbia so that they could practice.
"We really want to thank Spain for that," said Serbian coaching staff member Djordje Adzic.
Serbian captain Vasilje Micic said his team had to work hard to put all the issues behind them.
"We had our a lot of problems before the championship. But we are a good team and we have good chemistry and that made us really strong," said Micic, who also saw star guard Nikola Radicevic get sent home by Mijatovic after a disagreement with the coach just a week before the tournament.
The team is tighter knit than ever before.
"We know why we came here. And we know our goal. Hopefully all this is behind us now and we can play better," said Micic.