By Cesare Milanti / firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA, Philippines – It doesn’t even look like a surprise anymore: Latvia will fight for the 5th spot at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, in the first-ever participation of the Baltic country in the International competition.
Beating 87-82 Italy, Luca Banchi’s squad had another imposing night against a European powerhouse, less than 24 hours after being inches away from prevailing over Germany, qualifying for a miraculous semifinal.
Talking in the post-game press conference, the Italian head coach pointed out the fact they need to stay in this kind of competition. “Latvian basketball needs to stay at the level that it deserves. We need nights like this, like we had against Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Greece, and France to show everybody that we are alive and we exist. We go through the big names because we have an identity and a style, and as we proved tonight we have values”, he first said.
Having to deal with a tough game less than one day from the battle against Germany, left Luca Banchi upset. “I said we, but they have values. The way they approach the game tonight, believe me: it would be tough for everybody to find the energy, the motivation, to come on the court, step on the court and expose their body. People here are feeding their families with basketball, and after 22 hours and such a dramatic game, they ask them after six games in ten days to be back on the court and compete in the semifinals for the 5th place. It’s risky, and probably not respectful, but not even a single player stepped down, everybody wants to play and to win. And it’s a matter of value”, he added.
Finally, he delivered one of the most emotional speeches of the whole tournament. “We are doing… They are doing an amazing job to promote basketball in the country. Yesterday, schools allowed kids to watch basketball in classes, they watched the game. We received many pictures and videos that I shared in our chat with players after the game with Germany, before going to sleep. I wanted them to see these kids sitting in a room and watching them play: it means that in a few games, they became role models. Role models need to inspire people. The people, tonight, were expecting them to give one more demonstration to have special values. And that’s what they did. They deserve to become role models. It’s not a matter of win, but it’s a matter of attitude. Because it’s not the big names, but the values that make people special”, Luca Banchi also said on what this 2023 FIBA World Cup means for the whole country.
Luca Banchi and one of the best speeches of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. pic.twitter.com/XaO08S8gNC
— Cesare Milanti (@cesaremilanti) September 7, 2023
Before heading to the post-game press conference, the 58-year-old stopped by the mixed zone to talk with the Italian media. “We were feeling the fatigue after the game with Germany, coming back to the locker room first and to the hotel then. It was great seeing the team react after a tough start, finding the good vibes, and emotions that gave us the opportunity to approach this competition like this, playing at high intensity”, he first said about approaching this game.
However, this didn’t seem the case against Gianmarco Pozzecco’s team. “Tonight, this seemed to be missed for us in the first ten minutes, when Italy was great at moving the ball and playing in their best ways. We came to this game without preparing for it, with the only goal of resetting ourselves and giving more psychological motivations to put it into action. Little by little, we found our style and our trajectories to try to beat their defensive pressure and limit the impact they were having on offense. The tiredness clouds the thoughts, we had some moment of loss but generally the moments of lucidity were more”, Luca Banchi also added.
Finally, the Latvian national team could come out with the victory, having the opportunity to write history once more on Saturday, where they will face the winner of the matchup between Slovenia and Lithuania for the 5th position. “Winning this game means double pride for me. Italy in the Top 8, for us fans, is something beautiful. We know this is a stage Italy can aspire to, for us being here was unexpected, and having done it after multiple feats brings great satisfaction. Coming to this game after the delusion against Germany made me sad a little bit, it was a game I hoped not to play”, he added laughing.
“Eventually, it would have been great playing it on a different occasion which could have given each something to celebrate for. We arrived at a single shot from qualifying for the Olympic Games, which is crazy to think. But the fact that in two days we will play for the 5th position, it’s something that makes us even more proud. It would have left us a bad taste leaving this competition with three straight defeats”, he finally stated.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ciamillo-Castoria
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