PHOTO: FIBA

THE SITUATION OF CROATIAN BASKETBALL AND CAN CROATIA REACH THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN PARIS?

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The Croatian national basketball team found itself in a very difficult qualifying tournament that it will play in Greece

Croatia is in a group with Slovenia and New Zealand, while Egypt, the Dominican Republic and the host of the tournament, Greece, are in the other group. It is not difficult to guess that Slovenia and Greece are the first two teams that will fight for the first place leading to the Olympic Games that will be held in the summer of 2024. Many would say that Croatia is the underdog of this tournament. But who knows, maybe as an outsider, Croatia will surprise. Although that is very hard to expect.

Greece is the first favorite of this tournament, and then Slovenia. Even though the Dominican Republic can be a “stumbling block”. We all know that Slovenia has Luka Dončić, who excels in the NBA, but Greece, along with Sloukas, Dorsey and Mitoglou and the host of the tournament, is the main favorite to go to Paris next summer from this qualifying tournament.

Croatia has the quality, but…?

Croatia has many quality players. But how much are they giving for Croatia? There is Hezonja, Šarić and Zubac, who played phenomenally against the Denver Nuggets, but how much Croatia is integrated with such players. Coach Josip Sesar brought some kind of harmony to the game of Croatian basketball players. Under his baton, we played pre-qualification tournaments for the qualifications for the Olympic Games and the World Cup. The only serious opponent was Turkey, which we kept under control the entire match.

But now the real challenges and real matches are coming. Matches against Slovenia and New Zealand will be real tests for Croatia. The national teams that are in this qualification tournament were at the last World Cup, which was held in Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia. At the World Cup, Slovenia finished in seventh place, the Dominican Republic in 14th place, and the host of the tournament, Greece, finished right behind it. Egypt finished 20th and New Zealand finished 22nd. Croatia was not present at the World Championship.

All of Croatia’s opponents have already played a lot of strong matches, and the question is how Croatia can play against such teams. No match will be easy. Coach Josip Sesar also knows this. Sesar is currently the trainer of KK Dinamo. And that’s a double edged sword. Why? On the one hand, he has the continuity of coaching players, so he cannot “fall out” of focus. On the other hand, he is a coach in the Croatian basketball league, which no longer has the luster and quality. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that something is bad, but Croatia doesn’t have a league to progress. At least not the kind you’re supposed to have. However, when Croatia is an outsider, then it is very dangerous.

We have arrived at a tournament where attractive and strong opponents will await us, top national teams with a handful of excellent players. However, we also have those in our species. This summer we were at the beginning of a good path, we started to create something that should last longer.

Josip Sesar, Croatia basketball team coach

What next?

If the players who will be invited to the national team arrange themselves in a proper and high-quality way, then Croatia could do something. How many could you make? That remains an open question until the qualifying tournament. The quality is there, but how far it can go – it remains for us to see. Croatia can, and must, make some progress. It would really be a shame if there is no result with players who have quality and can create something.

Croatia is an underdog in this tournament. That’s how the people will say that Croatia lost their way to this tournament. But through the prequalifications, she reached the main qualifications. In that tournament, she showed that she can set up her game as she wants, regardless of the fact that there was no serious team in the prequalification tournaments. Except Turkey, of course.

Coach Sesar should analyze all opponents well so that they do not “embarrass” themselves. And the players need to be convinced that they can play against anyone and at any time. Then you can do something. Regardless of the status that Croatia has, never underestimate the opponent. Let’s hope that the opponents will underestimate us so that the Croatian players will play more easily.

Best of luck to Croatia in the tournament. May he achieve the best possible placement in this tournament and match any opponent.

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