RIGA (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship) - The draw for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men held in Riga, Latvia on Thursday morning resulted in four very competitive groups, which are sure to make for some very interesting and exciting action this summer.
The 10th edition of the FIBA U19 World Championship will be played in the cities of Liepaja, Valmiera and Riga between 30 June and 10 July 2011.
With less than five months to go until the tip-off of an event that has become a favourite among basketball lovers, experts and scouts, the first steps of the arduous preparations that go into World Championship competition can begin in earnest.
“We were drawn in the group A with Poland, not Serbia (seeded in pot 2),” explains Oleg Fokin, Sports Director for the Russian team, who admitted to being satisfied with the draw.
“Poland, Brazil, Tunisia – now we need to learn and scout our opponents. So far we don`t know much about teams like Brazil, Tunis in the first stage.”
As runners up from last year’s FIBA Europe U18 Championship for Men, Fokin already has half an eye on the second group stage, where – should Russia qualify – they would meet the top three teams from group A.
These include Argentina and Australia, would be expected to be strong.
“Composition of groups A and B looks good for us, many strong teams are drawn in other groups,” concludes Fokin.
Completing the line-up in group B are Chinese Taipei and Latvia, who as hosts will be able to count on strong support from the crowd.
Whether or not they are stronger will only become apparent this summer, but groups B and C certainly have a couple of heavyweights.
These include Lithuania, whose basketball history and pedigree are unquestionable. Their third place at last year’s FIBA World Championship won’t count for much this summer, but the gold medal at the U18s is certainly relevant and makes them a force to be reckoned with.
They are joined by Canada, who have recently been enjoying somewhat of a revival at youth level, with bronze at last year’s U17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany. Croatia and Asian U18 silver medallists Korea were also drawn in group C.
If there were one group that maybe stood out, it would arguably be group D. Perennial pre-tournament favourites and defending champions USA were drawn with Serbia – whose talent pool at youth level remains very impressive – Asian heavyweights China and African U18 champions Egypt.
Do your homework
With little known about certain teams right up until the first games, those who do not do their homework always leave themselves open to a nasty surprise.
Indeed upsets are not uncommon at youth competitions, as FIBA’s Sport’s Director Lubomir Kotleba points out: “It`s difficult to predict the winner especially in this age category. Last year in Hamburg (FIBA U17 World Championship) most people didn’t expected Poland to play in finals.”
This is something the head of the Brazilian delegation attending the draw, Vinicius Alvarez is very much aware of “Regarding results of the draw, you don’t have easy opponents in the World Championship, you should respect everyone and prepare really hard.”
Now the 12 teams need to do just that: prepare.
Results of the draw:
Group A (Valmiera): Brazil, Poland, Russia, Tunisia
Group B (Valmiera): Argentina, Australia, Chinese Taipei, Latvia
Group C (Liepaja): Canada, Croatia, Lithuania, Korea
Group D (Liepaja): China, Egypt, Serbia, USA