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21/08/2008USA/ARG – Team USA wanted Argentina and now they’ve got ’em

BEIJING (Olympics) – In the post-game press conference after the United States’ 116-85 triumph over Australia, Kobe Bryant, the architect of the Boomers’ demise, was asked if he wanted to play Argentina or Greece in the semi-finals.

Bryant, fresh off his best performance at the Olympics, stated firmly: “We want to play the best. We want to play the defending champs …

“Argentina is the defending champs. You want to be able to play the guys who won it the last time. I would love for us to have the opportunity.”

“Kobe,” people in Buenos Aires will be warning, “be careful what you wish for.”

Argentina did beat Greece 80-78 to make sure that Kobe and the most dominating group at these Beijing Games, Mike Krzyzewski’s USA, got their chance at revenge.

The USA have actually beaten the Argentinians three times since that semi-final four years ago. The United States won their bronze-medal game at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and defeated Sergio Hernandez’s men twice last year at the FIBA Americas Championship, although Argentina did not have Manu Ginobili, Walter Herrmann, Pep Sanchez or Fabricio Oberto.

This year at the Olympics, Argentina do have Ginobili and Oberto, though Herrmann and Sanchez have decided to retire.

Argentina lost their first game to Lithuania in Beijing but haven’t lost since with Ginobili and Scola wreaking havoc on opponents, Andres Nocioni providing his usual toughness on both ends of the floor and Pablo Prigioni distributing the ball, coming up with the occasional steal and hitting the odd three-pointer.

Argentina also got a lift from Carlos Delfino on Wednesday against the Greeks. Delfino, with Nocioni having left the game with an acute pain in his knee, torched the Greeks for 23 points on an array of three-point bombs and spectacular drives to the basket.

Ginobili led the team with 24 points. Argentina celebrated on the court as if they’d won the gold medal.

Few people, because of the sheer dominance of the United States at this Olympics, will give Sergio Hernandez’s team a chance against the USA.

There did not appear to be any American reporters in the press conference after Argentina’s win to hear Hernandez say this.

"It could be that we have an advantage because of our starting five, four play in the NBA,” said Hernandez, the man who replaced coach Ruben Magnano after the Athens Olympics.

“It means experience to play against Kobe Bryant and those players.

“We played in Las Vegas (FIBA Americas Championship) and you have to play a different type of basketball. We have players accustomed to that.

“We will try to adjust to that."

If Nocioni is fit, Argentina have not just an excellent starting five to throw at the Americans. They have an excellent six with Delfino coming off the bench.

But the USA have an NBA All-Star team as reserves.

One of those back-ups, Utah Jazz big man Carlos Boozer, played on the USA team that lost to Argentina four years ago.

“We all want Argentinal,” Boozer said.

“We all want revenge on that game.

“That’s the game that we want to have.

“I think they want to see us, too.”


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