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Greeks Stun France, Reach Final

24 September 2005
By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport

Greece clinched a place in the final of a EuroBasket for the first time since 1989 with a stunning come-from-behind 67-66 triumph in the final minute against France on Saturday night.

It was Dimitrios Diamantidis who made the heroic play for Greece, as he buried a three pointer with 3 seconds left on the clock to steal what had looked like a certain French victory just one minute earlier.

The French, behind Tony Parker, appeared to take control and led 60-53 with 1:03 to left in the game. But Greece fought back after some costly free throw misses by France, setting up a thrilling finish.

Greek captain Michail Kakiouzis led the celebrations on court, with his team now set to face the winner of Spain's semi-final with Greece.

"I'm very dizzy (with emotion)," said a speechless Kakiouzis to PA Sport.

"At the end, we were lucky but this is basketball.

"It (the game) finishes in the last second. We proved it in the last seconds of the game when we never lost hope."

Greece might have won more easily had they sank their free throws, but they were an abysmal 14 of 26 from the line.

Greek fans had hoped their basketball heroes would capture gold last summer at the Olympics when they hosted the event in Athens, but eventual champions Argentina beat them in the quarter-final round.

This year's team, however, is on a mission.

After coming from behind to beat Russia in the quarter-final, they have struck again against Les Bleus.

Another victory and Greece will have emulated the Greek heroes of 1987, a team which including the current national team boss, Yannakis.

What a time to be a sports fan in the country! The team won the European Championships in football last year.

"We grew up watching the 1987 team guided on the court by Yannakis," Kakiouzis said. "He has set an example for us. This is very important for Greece, for our basketball and for the national team.

"People have started to watch basketball and play it again, and support the Greek team.

"The atmosphere in the arena was amazing. I am just overwhelmed."

Greece will now face the winner of Spain's semi-final with Germany for the gold medal.

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