By Kevin Anselmo
Italian coach Carlo Recalcati and his team are holding their heads high despite coming up short in reaching their goal.
Yesterday’s 74-66 loss to Croatia in the Elimination Round knocked Italy out of the tournament. As a result, the Italians failed to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2001 and will not come close to duplicating their bronze medal performance in EuroBasket 2003 or silver medal finish at last year’s Olympics.
Prior to this EuroBasket, Italian coach Carlo Recalcati said: “Our basic goal is to qualify for the quarter-finals. Anything less than qualifying for the World Championships would be unacceptable.”
But following the loss to Croatia, Recalcati issued a different message.
|Italy will look to build around youngsters like Angelo Gigli|
“In Sweden and Athens, we overachieved and played beyond expectations,” he said. “We didn’t do that this time and we accept that.”
Recalcati also pointed to the higher level of play in the 2005 EuroBasket as a contributing factor to his team’s early exit.
“The level in this championship is very high and there are probably 10 or 11 teams capable of winning it.”
The thought was echoed by Giacomo Galanda, Italy’s team captain.
“There is no big difference between this team and teams that we bought to tournaments in recent years. The competition level here is just so high that any team on any given night can win with a few shots at the end of the game.”
Galanda has been a part of Italy’s successful run dating back to 1999, when the Italians claimed gold at the EuroBasket held in Athens.
In this current EuroBasket, Italy opened with an 84-82 win over Germany, lost to Russia 87-61 and beat Ukraine 99-62. They finished in third place in Group A and therefore had to make the trip from Vrsac to Podgorica for the Elimination Round.
“There is no disappointment,” Galanda said. “We brought the same team and the same spirit. We didn’t win a medal this time, but we’re not looking back.”
Questions in Italy will now center on rebuilding. The current Italian squad has seven players over the age of 30. Stefano Mancineli and Angelo Gigli are the only players on Italy’s roster under 25.
“It’s a big job for a coach to rebuild,” Recalcati said. “We probably need some more time for our younger players to develop. But this is the time that we now need to change and go in that direction.”
Italy also have a group of core players that have been together for years. Eight players from last year’s Olympic silver medal team are taking on Europe’s best in Serbia Montenegro. Gianluca Basile, Giacomo Galanda and Denis Marconato all played together on Italy EuroBasket gold medal team from six years ago.