|"One thing is certain, we have already guaranteed ourselves a heroes' welcome back home," says F.Y.R. of Macedonia captain Pero Antic |
No matter what happens in Sunday's bronze-medal game against Russia, F.Y.R of Macedonia will go home as champions.
Marin Dokuzovski's men have enjoyed their journey at the EuroBasket.
It's the first time in their history have reached the knockout stages of the competition.
The natioanl team have not only given their fans a lot of big wins to celebrate, but also a berth at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to look forward to.
"Nobody could have imagined this," captain Pero Antic said to fibaeurope.com
"We were from the start of the EuroBasket considered as the guys who would fall first but we showed to everybody that we had a big heart, that we fight for each other and that we have for sure the best chemistry in this EuroBasket.
"From the youngest to the oldest, to the equipment guy, we are all together. There is not one individual in our team."
The tournament did not start on the right foot for them, though, as they fell to a 70-65 defeat to Montenegro.
But they bounced back with six straight wins before their final Group F game against Russia.
A buzzer-beating three-pointer by Sergey Monya handed Russia a 63-61 triumph over Antic and Co, but that only seemed to make them stronger because Dokuzovski's side then shocked hosts Lithuania in a memorable quarter-final.
Trailing 65-63, Vlado Ilievski nailed a three-ball with 11 seconds to go and they held on for victory.
"Iliesvski showed big guts to make that shot," Antic recalls. "He has had a great tournament and I knew he would make it.
"It was a huge basket."
F.Y.R of Macedonia fell short against defending champions Spain and lost 92-80 in Friday's Semi-Final.
"We were beaten by the best team in the EuroBasket," Antic said. "But we gave our all."
Their performances have not gone unnoticed with Dokuzovski's group having received plenty of praise all over.
"They have played smart, with heart and class the entire tournament," Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.
"For us, it was an honour to beat a team like them in order to reach the final."
Antic says he and his teammates will be ready to face Russia again for the second time.
"We will go out and fight once again on the court as we always do," he said.
"It would be wonderful to return home with a medal and we want to win.
"One thing is certain, we have already guaranteed ourselves a heroes' welcome back home."