|29 August 2010|
European teams caused a real stir on the opening day of the FIBA World Championship with France claiming maybe the biggest scalp by upsetting last year's EuroBasket winners Spain.
Taking on the only team to beat them last year in the Final Round in Poland, France surprised the Spaniards 72-66 in Izmir.
There were also wins for Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Greece, Lithuania and tournament hosts Turkey but Croatia and Germany suffered losses.
|Nikos Zisis was in good form as Greece saw off China in Ankara|
Vincent Collet's France team trailed 18-9 early on but fought back and eventually went in front to stay late in the fourth quarter when Nicolas Batum made two free-throws for a 55-53 advantage.
Batum then buried a three-pointer with 2:34 to go for a 58-53 lead.
With Spain missing free-throw after free-throw on the night - they were just 17 of 32 (53%) - France prevailed.
"Perhaps in the last five minutes, we didn't make the right decisions," Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.
"There has been an enormous difference in percentage of two-pointers for them and us and of course, the free-throws were also very important.
"We have congratulated France for their physical strength and for their defense."
Spain dug themselves a big hole at last year's EuroBasket with an early defeat to Serbia but managed to win the title.
"This team has already surpassed this kind of complicated situation so I hope that tomorrow against New Zealand, we come out with concentration and strength because that would mean we have taken notice of the mistakes that we made today," Scariolo said.
On Sunday, France play Lebanon - a team that beat them four years ago in Japan.
Lebanon defeated Canada in their opening clash on Saturday in Istanbul.
Lithuania won impressively in Group D against New Zealand, beating the Tall Blacks 92-79.
Linas Kleiza had 27 points for the Baltic giants who looked very good one year after their debacle in Poland when the team won just once in six games.
Turkey were irresistible against Ivory Coast, beating the African nation 86-47 in Ankara.
Bogdan Tanjevic's side set the tone for the Group C rout in the first five minutes when they exploded into a 14-2 lead and ended up with a convincing victory.
Omer Onan had 18 points and Ersan Ilyasova 17 for the Turks, who played in front of an incredible and very loud atmosphere in the country's capital.
Also in Group C, Russia, who received a wild card to play at the FIBA World Championship, upset Puerto Rico 75-66 despite the absence of Viktor Khryapa through injury.
"Our most important player was missing but Sergey Monya was good," Russia coach David Blatt said.
"We were good at defense and that was the key for our victory."
Monya had 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Greece and Serbia both won their games despite being down two men each because of suspensions.
Antonis Fotsis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis were banned for two Group C games at the FIBA World Championship for their roles in a brawl at the end of a recently friendly against Serbia in Athens while the Serbians had to play Angola in Group A without Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic because of their two- and three-game suspensions, respectively.
The Greeks were pushed hard by China but survived 89-81.
Jonas Kazlauskas, the Greek coach who led China at the 2008 Olympics, said: "After bad preparation games and the suspension of our two important players, we could not play good. If we had Antonis Fotsis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, we could have a better shooting percentage and we could find more baskets against the zone."
In Group A, Serbia didn't appear to miss their banned players as they laid the wood to Angola, winning 94-44.
Victory was all but assured when the Serbians extended a 25-9 lead to 29-12 midway through the second quarter.
By half-time, the game was a blowout with the Blues on top, 43-18.
Germany threw a real scare into the top team in the FIBA World Rankings, Argentina, but lost that Group A game, 78-74.
The Germans, who received a wild card to take part in this year's event, led 42-39 at half-time after a three-pointer by Demond Greene before the buzzer.
Argentina seemed to take a firm grip on proceedings when they held Germany to just seven points in the first nine minutes of the third quarter and led 63-49.
The Germans fought like Lions and came storming back to pull level at 74-74 when Tim Ohlbrecht made one of two attempts at the line with 1:51 to go.
Germany ended up with the ball and could have taken the lead at the end but with 10 seconds to go, Hernan Jasen stole the ball away from Greene and the Europeans had to foul Carlos Delfino.
He made two free-throws and Argentina then elected to foul Steffen Hamann so he could not attempt a potential game-tying three-ball.
Hamann missed both free throws and Delfino rebounded as Argentina held on.
Slovenia's huge fan base travelled to Istanbul for their Group B games and were rewarded with an 80-56 win over Tunisia.
Goran Dragic scored 16 points, youngster Gasper Vidmar 15 and Bostjan Nachbar 14 for Slovenia, who face Team USA on Sunday.
The Americans only led Croatia 22-20 at the end of the first quarter but ended up pulling away for a 106-78 triumph over Josip Vrankovic's side in Istanbul.
Croatia will try to get back on track on Sunday when they face Iran.