Madrid, The Highlights

12.08.2007

By Daniel Aubrey

And so, as all good things must come to an end, so too must this year’s UMCOR U18 European Championships Men in Madrid.

It’s been another good year, and while some things came as no surprise – such as Serbia’s charge to the final, their third of the summer at European youth levels – there were other things that people may not have seen coming, like Latvia’s long unbeaten run and Estonia’s qualification from their group at Italy’s expense.

But before the big final between Greece and Serbia gets going this evening, with its mouth-watering match up of two of the tournament’s stars – Milan Macvan of Serbia and Konstantinos Koufos of Greece – we look back at what have been the highlights of the tournament...so far.

Day One

Dino Muric (Slovenia)
Dino Muric of Slovenia was red hot against Italy with 37 points.
Latvia shock Italy – Leading at halftime and not looking particularly troubled, Italy allowed their lead to slip in the second half of the first game of the tournament, as an unfancied Latvia side started a comeback that would give them their first win of a five game unbeaten run.

Dino Muric scores 37 points – Slovenia got their tournament up and running in style with a big win against Croatia thanks to one man – Dino Muric.  The 17 year old small forward heard premature talk of MVP nominations thanks to a stunning performance with 37 points and 13 rebounds.

Spain destroy Romania – All the pre-tournament talk of the host’s chances of repeating their gold winning feat of Zaragoza 2004 seemed to be well founded when they set about destroying Romania in style 95-46.

Day Two

Serbia runs up record score – If anyone was in doubt about Serbia’s chances of making it a clean sweep of finals for the summer after the first day of play then all doubt was emphatically removed on the second day.  After Spain had impressed against Romania the day before Serbia raised the bar with a record breaking win of 145-37 with seven players

Milan Macvan (Serbia)
Milan Macvan helped Serbia to an impressive win over Romania.
scoring in double figures and sending out a clear warning to the competition.

Croatia Appreciation Society appears – As Croatia were getting beaten by Lithuania, the remaining local fans who had stayed on to watch after Spain’s game with Russia took Croatia to their hearts, singing for them throughout and asking some surprised members of the Croatia squad for photo-ops after the game.

Day Three

Estonia qualify above Italy – “With big heart and character anything can happen”. Not a line from a Disney film but Estonia coach Indrek Visnapuu’s view of his team after their remarkable 72-60 win over Italy put them through to the qualification round and left the Italians bottom of Group A without a single win.

Latvia run continues against France – Latvia passed their biggest test of the tournament by this stage as they fought hard to continue their unbeaten run against France with a 72-67 win.  Many expected Latvia to fall at this stage against the defending champions, but they showed tremendous determination and concentration throughout to keep up the tournament’s surprise run.

Croatian comeback against Germany – “They are a wind at my back” said Croatian player Miro Bilan of the crowd who again turned out to cheer on his side.  What had seemed like a one-off turned into a phenomenon when a big crowd arrived at the Telefonica Arena to cheer on Croatia. One group of fans even turned up kitted out all in Croatia shirts and with a gigantic Croatia flag to cheer the boys to their first win and subsequent qualification to the next round.

Serbia beat Spain – The clash of the tournament by this stage and one of the most decisive games of the whole competition.  Rubio was a solitary performer for the hosts as the more physical Serbia side kept the other Spanish boys quiet took an 85-76 win and, without knowing it then, effectively defined the rest of the tournament.

Day Five

Spain-Lithuania fight – After a relatively quiet day four, the fifth day of the tournament was nothing less than explosive.  Scuffles abounded in a tense and often bitter fight

Konstantinos Koufos (Greece)
Konstantinos Koufos has been unstoppable for Greece.
between Spain and Lithuania for a vital win for potentially deciding who would advance to the semi finals. Spain won the game 87-82.

Greece last seconds win over France for semis – Slowly but surely Greece had quietly been moving towards the semi-finals with an unbeaten run and in star Konstantinos Koufos a great player who seemed to be getting better by the day.  He had a great game against France, as with 1:51 left in the tie his side trailed by nine but came back to win 82-81 in the dying seconds to confirm their place in the semi-final.

Serbia destroy Germany – Not content with a record breaking win against Romania and an all-important victory over Spain, Dejan Mijatovic’s men ran up another massive win against Germany 107-59.

Day Six

Latvia’s run comes to an end – One unbeaten run had to come to an end when Greece and Latvia met, and despite another determined effort it was Latvia who broke as Koufos again ran the show with 30 points and 13 rebounds to keep his side unbeaten and take top spot in Group E.

Spain put out by Lithuania – 4:57 to go in Lithuania’s game with Serbia and the Spanish players were in the crowd singing and chanting  with the rest of the fans.   Five minutes later those cheers turned to tears as Lithuania went on an 11-2 run at the end of the game to put themselves through as second in the group at the expense of the hosts and the full importance of Spain’s earlier defeat to Serbia was realised.

Day Seven

The Koufos show – How do you better 30 points and 13 rebounds to put your side in the semi-finals? Easy, the very next game you score 37 points and grab 20 boards to lead your side into the final.  That’s exactly what Konstantinos Koufos did as the game of the tournament so far saw his team win an amazing game with Lithuania and set us up for today’s exciting final between Greece and Serbia.

Let’s hope for more of the same today.


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