The European Championship 2022 for our team has ended. The eight best teams of the tournament will continue the showdown for the continental crown, Ukraine could have been among them, but, unfortunately, it did not work out. And it’s very embarrassing. It is doubly disappointing that the chance for such a tournament breakthrough was very good. When else in the 1/8 finals will Ukrainian basketball players be considered favorites according to betting quotes?
On the other hand, our team fulfilled the EuroBasket plan. Agree, how many fans of the “blue-yellows” confidently counted on a peremptory place in the top 16 before the start of the championship? And how many of these remained after the defeat in Iceland? The real ceiling for Ukraine was reaching the playoffs in a difficult struggle for it with the national teams of Estonia and Great Britain. And this bar was taken with a margin.
In general, it is very difficult to holistically evaluate the Ukrainian team at EuroBasket. It seems that they completed the task, and along the way they also played with dignity with all the reputable teams, they completely beat Italy. But in their main match at the tournament, they lost, being in the status of favorites, nullifying most of the success in the group stage. Let’s try to move step by step along the path of the wards of Ainars Bagatskis.
The opening game against Great Britain was won without any options. The main outsider of EuroBasket could not oppose anything to our basketball players. In fact, with the help of this match, the Ukrainians simply rolled into the tournament and took their rightful victory.
Then came a much more difficult duel with Estonia. The same motivated and determined only to win. The fight was key. In every way. You can talk for a long time about the fact that the Ukrainians were lucky in that game. That the Estonians looked more confident for a significant part of the match (not to be confused with the concept of “looked better”). That for the first time the Ukrainians came out in the score at the last minute of the match, but these two points from Ilya Sidorov, the smallest in our team, who reacted the fastest on the floor to the lethargic dream of the Estonian big man, separated success from failure for us at EuroBasket. The national team of Ukraine already after two starting rounds secured the exit from the group by 99%. Yes, somewhere lucky, but the team of Ainars Bagatskis in that match, with their work, energy and fire in their eyes, deserved a smile of fate.
fiba basketball. Illya Sidorov brought victory over Estonia
In the third game of the group tournament against the Italian team, the successful performance of the Ukrainians continued. At first, everything worked out, just like two weeks earlier in Riga. A good first half, but it was felt that Italy was playing with a margin. However, our team has worked on the bugs. At first, the “blue-yellows” did not allow the Apennines to turn on their favorite fast basketball to the fullest, dragged the opponent into their game, forced them to make heavy shots in attack and exert themselves as much as possible in defense, and in the fourth quarter they completely finished off the discouraged opponent. The team of Ainars Bagatskis that evening was great and it was after this match, and not after two starting victories, that the vast majority of the team’s fans wanted something more than just a formal exit from the group.
The match against the Greeks, despite the final -20, our team also played normally. One of the main contenders for victory in the tournament lost the first half to us by seven points, and in the third ten-minute period, star Giannis had to turn on, if not his maximum speed, then very close to it. Best of all, two facts will tell about this match – the first is that the coach of the Hellenes personally devoted part of his timeout in the first half to Issouf Sanon and stuffed Giannis himself, and the second is that the star Greek himself remained on the site when the fate of the match was almost decided.
The last game against Croatia didn’t catch my eye so much, but it also solved our local problems. Albeit not without the influence of the choice of the Croatian coaching staff and the actions of Bojan Bogdanovich in the end (who, by the way, have already been punished by sports fortune for an excess of cunning).
fiba basketball. The match against Croatia was the best in the tournament for Vladimir Gerun
But these are the problems of the Balkans, and for us the final whistle meant that we finished the group stage in second place in our sextet. Right behind the Greeks and overtaking Croatia and Italy. And they went to the 1/8 finals not in Serbia, but in Poland with Ponitka and Slaughter as the main stars. Feel the difference with EuroBasket 2017, when we got (or rather, we got) the Slovenian team with Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic.
The game with Poland should have just been won. It was a fight for history. A victory in it would allow the Ukrainian team to repeat their best result since Mike Fratello. Even if the national team made forty losses in a match and converted 25% of all shots, but this was enough for Victoria, it would deserve praise. Just like any demonstrated quality of the game could not serve as an excuse for us in case of defeat. Unfortunately, we gave in.
The opponent was nothing special. They had some strong leaders, but we have a deeper roster, a higher overall level of players, advantage under the shield and other bonuses. We were the favorites of the bookmakers and outside fans, but the Poles outplayed us. Our three-pointers obviously didn’t go well, and for some reason we missed them in the fourth quarter, when there was still plenty of time to chase the opponent. Somewhere they didn’t finish it, somewhere they didn’t abandon their throws, somewhere they gave the Poles a sense of courage. All these intermediate and, at first glance, insignificant moments, which in fact turn out to be extremely important and make the result in the game of approximately equal opponents. It’s a pity, because the victory could really become historic. Ukraine would have left behind such basketball countries as Serbia, Lithuania, Turkey, but it did not work out.
Perhaps many will disagree with me, but I don’t want to single out any of our players for either the worse or the better, delve into the statistics, evaluate the role in the team. Everyone who entered the court in blue and yellow jerseys deserves kind words. Everyone fought, tried, fought, the guys’ eyes burned. And even Dmitry Skapintsev, who sat on the bench for almost the entire EuroBasket, managed to impose a fight on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, not everyone succeeded, someone held the championship below their level, and some players did not score such important shots, but Ukrainian basketball players gave themselves completely on the floor.
fiba basketball. Dmitry Skapintsev vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Not everything is clear about our coaching staff. When a team loses to a team of equal strength, then such a defeat is most often a coaching one. And there are also enough separate questions, in particular, on the rotation of players. But all the same, everyone involved in our team needs to say thank you. Unfortunately, Ainars Bagatskis could not become in the history of Ukrainian basketball next to Mike Fratello, he remained close to Yevgeny Murzin. But we will remember the purely coaching victory over Italy with a fiery timeout from our helmsman for a long time to come. I wonder what decision the Latvian mentor will make about further work at the head of the Ukrainian team. However, most likely, he already accepted it.
In spite of everything, we should thank our team for their performance at EuroBasket. Personally, it gave me a lot of emotions, mostly positive. We are among the sixteen best teams on the continent. Which is already very good. However, appetite comes with eating, but it turned out that our fans at this tournament can be compared with hungry tourists who found themselves in an unfamiliar place and went into a new cafe. And our team of chefs, having fed them a hearty main course in the form of a game in a group tournament and further hopes for the playoff stage, served finely chopped sour lemon instead of the sweet dessert expected by everyone. But this is life, it also happens in it.