Germany stunned Italy 67-58 in Madrid today to win the final spot in the EuroBasket07 quarterfinals. Italy had not played well in the tournament and, like Germany, entered the final game of the qualifying round with a 1-3 record.
But Italy won the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics and has two NBA players in Andrea Bargnani of the Raptors and Marco Belinelli of the Warriors and has 10 players playing in top flight European leagues. Germany has Dirk Nowitzki and only one other player who plays in a top European league with most of the others playing professionally in German leagues.
Interestingly, the Italians held Dirk -- the leading scorer in the tournament with an average of better than 26 points a game entering the game -- to only 15 points but teammate Johannes Herber, who plays for a team in Berlin, also had 15 including 10 in the third quarter.
So Dirk will continue chasing his dream of playing in the Olympics but Germany must surmount two challenges -- a quarterfinal meeting with defending World Champion Spain and then a semifinal match with the winner of the Russia-France game.
The top two teams in the tournament qualify for the 2008 Olympics so even if Germany was to lose in the final, the team would still go to Beijing.
-- Jan Hubbard