Germany Shows Potential

01 September 2003
From PA International, Berlin

The friendly season is over for Germany.

Now comes the difficult part - the European Championships.

It's time to see how good Dirk Nowitzki and company really are at the premier tournament in Sweden, which tips off on Friday.

Chances are they're going to be very good.

Germany's opening Group B game is against Israel, a contest they will be favoured to win, and they also have games against Lithuania and Latvia.

They will enter the competition with a head full of steam after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 76-66 in Cologne, and Italy 78-74 in Berlin in their final warm-up games.

Serbia & Montenegro, France, Russia, Spain, Lithuania, Greece, Germany, Turkey and Italy are all sides deemed capable of going all the way, such is the balance this year.

Serbia & Montenegro might have been big favourites had Dejan Bodiroga and Dejan
Tomasevic decided to play, but the Spanish-based professionals are taking the summer off and that has helped create a wide-open field.

Even Slovenia and Croatia, two athletic groups who play extremely well as teams, excel in transition and shoot the ball well have to be taken seriously.

But Germany have a seven-foot reason, Nowitzki, who gives one huge reason to believe they will win.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar, one of the most versatile players in the world, didn't play in either of the two games over the weekend because he is not fully recovered from the sprained ankle picked up in the Supercup against France, but he says he will be ready to lead them into battle.

"I'm confident that I will be fit by the time we play Israel," he said.

Nowitzki isn't the only reason why Germany can believe.

They have a talented group of players, and they draw encouragement from past accomplishments.

Two years ago they made it to the semi-finals at the Eurobasket in Istanbul and last summer they took bronze at the World Championships in Indianapolis.

And don't forget, Germany captured the European title 10 years ago.

The hero of that team, Henning Harnisch, believes this year's crop can duplicate the feat.

"It seems as though they have a good atmosphere," he said.

"When I look at the players in that way, then I believe they have a chance at the European Championships," he told

"There are six to eight teams who are equally strong and can claim the title. The German team belongs to that group and has the necessary potential."

Against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Marko Pesic scored 15 points to lead the Germans and Patrick Femerling added 14.

The German league's player of the year, Mithat Demirel, paced the attack against Italy with 20 points.

Germany travel to Sweden on Wednesday.

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