If someone told me Serbia was going to play against the United States in the Final of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball World Cup, I would have laughed in their face and told them they were crazy. It looked as if Spain was a lock to reach the Final (especially at home), or even if they didn’t, Brazil or France was definitely next in line.
However, this was not the case. Of all teams, Serbia was the one to challenge the United States in the Final and if they were to win it probably would be one of the biggest upsets in basketball history. No one thought Serbia would win this game and like predicted the game was never close.
Nevertheless, Serbia deserves a lot of credit and needs to be talked about in terms of a solid basketball country. When I think of solid basketball countries, Serbia is not one that comes to mind. For instance, in order to qualify for the World Cup Serbia finished in seventh place in the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket qualifying tournament. There were actually only six qualifying spots available at the tournament, but since Spain was participating in that tournament and had an automatic berth in the tournament, as the host nation for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Spain’s finish essentially wouldn’t count. Therefore, since Spain came in third place, Serbia’s seventh place finish was actually pushed to a sixth place finish and they received the final qualifying spot into the World Cup.
Things didn’t start out so well for Serbia as they were in tough to begin the tournament being grouped with Spain, Brazil, France, Iran and Egypt. After defeating a weak Egypt team, Serbia lost a heartbreaker to France by one-point. A bounce back victory against Iran guaranteed Serbia into the Round of 16, but they finished group competition by losing to Brazil and Spain convincingly.
Serbia may have finished group competition with a 2-3 record, but history proved that good fortune was coming. When it comes to International events, Serbia’s Milos Tedosic knows a lot about winning and was a big reason for Serbia’s success. After a walkover win over Greece in the Round of 16, Tedosic dropped a game-high 23 points, going 10-for-10 from the free-throw line to upset Brazil winning 84-56.
Tedosic has been familiar with winning from a young age with Serbia and proved it in this tournament. Tedosic’s hardware with Serbia includes gold medals from the 2003 U16 European Championship, 2005 U18 European Championship, 2007 U20 European Championship, as well as a silver medal from the 2009 FIBA European Championship.
After defeating Brazil, Serbia was dealt with another tough test in the Semi-Finals against France. France had already defeated Serbia in the Preliminary Rounds so this was a redemption game for Serbia. Despite a huge game from Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, the 2010 European Player of the Year Tedosic was able to guide his team to victory. Tedosic finished with a team-high 24 points, shooting 9-for-12 from the floor. With another great game from Tedosic, Serbia was guaranteed a medal and was now forced to face the United States.
Serbia was not going to defeat the United States no matter how well Tedosic played. The United States are too powerful and way too staked to make it a competitive game as they won by 37 points in the Final. Any team besides Spain would most likely have been walked over by the United States, so this defeat should not discredit Serbia’s ability.
With that being said, Serbia deserves a lot of credit by winning a silver medal and despite a lot of good fortune they shouldn’t be looked over as a solid basketball country. In five appearances in the FIBA World Cup, Serbia (formally known as Yugoslavia until 2006) has now medaled three times, with two gold medals to go alongside one silver medal. Serbia has yet to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics but if they do, don’t be surprised if Tedosic and company are surprising a few teams.