Great Britain host Greece tonight (Friday) in Leicester in the first round of qualification for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Greece was victorious over Great Britain in their last meeting, back in August in the Copper Box by a margin of just four points. Great Britain put in a great showing in the clash despite going down 84-88 in front of an incredible crowd in London. The highlights of the game were some incredibly powerful and athletic dunks from Gabe Olaseni, a taste of what would be to come at Eurobasket and a very promising debut from Luke Nelson who had a chance in the dying moments to tie the game after making an athletic steal.
Greece was led by veteran Point Guard Nick Calathes whose passing and handling had the Great British guards working overtime all night as he fed the energetic Thanasis Antetokounmpo and the Sacramento Kings big man Georgios Papagiannis.
Great Britain will be lead tonight by their new Head Coach, Tony Garbelotto after Joe Prunty stood down following Eurobasket in the summer. Garbelotto pulls triple duty as he is Head Coach of both the Glasgow Rocks of the BBL and the Scotland National team preparing them for the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Speaking to Splitfocussports.com back in September Garbelotto stated aim for the GB national team was to progress to the second round of World Cup Qualification, a win tonight would be a massive step towards securing that goal.
World Cup Qualification takes place in two stages this cycle, with two group stages. Great Britain is in Group H alongside Estonia, Greece and Israel. Israel and Great Britain both languished at the bottom of their group in the Eurobasket preliminary round whilst Greece made the Quarterfinal, knocking out Kristaps Porzingis’ Lithuania in the round of 16. Estonia, ranked 27th in Europe five places lower than Great Britain, did not qualify for Eurobasket. The top three sides in the group after six games (home and away) will advance to the second qualifying round.
Greece will be a tough test of Great Britain and a win for the hosts would be a major coup for the players and coaches of the GB team. Greece underperformed a little in Eurobasket but was still good enough to finish 8th in the final tournament standings. Great Britain can take great heart from their performances over the summer that they and with Greece fielding, a changed squad Garbelotto will fancy his chances at taking the scalp of a European giant tonight.