The following is a post I wrote for the Official FIBA BBall app — available via Nokia’s Ovi Store.
Dance to the beat of the drum…
In my last post you read as I lauded both the Argentinian and Lithuanian crowds as they pushed their teams to wins over Brazil and China respectively. Well, it’s amazing how things change, yet they stay the same. Once again, crowd support had a massive impact in this match, between Argentina and Lithuania, however this time the fans in blue and white forgot to show up – figuratively speaking of course.
Lithuania’s crowd was simply amazing, beating drums, striking thunder-sticks, coordinating to hoist a massive red-yellow-green flag over their section and chanting in unison. They did this on every single play – for the entire game.
Meanwhile, one section across, the equally huge Argentinian fan group somehow encountered a bout of mass-amnesia. They seemingly all simultaneously forgot why they had travelled to Turkey, as they sat on their hands and barely registered a decibel on the in-arena Nokia Ovi noise meter.
What was a huge strength for Argentina in their previous game suddenly became an elephant in the room. Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and co occasionally received a polite golf-clap from their fans, but outside of that, they literally sat there, perhaps in shock that they were not winning a game that they were favourites to progress through.
The Lithuanian lead started early and progressed with alarming consistency through the first three quarters. They nailed three pointers with a similar level of accuracy to what Serbia had done a night before. They played solid defence on Scola. They looked like a well-oiled machine, ready to take on Team USA in the next round.
Whilst it is natural for a group of fans to get down when their team has no real chance of a victory, the Argentinian crowd looked to have given up well before half-time. The reality of course was, that Argentina could have made a comeback under the right circumstances, but their crowd certainly was not helping. The final quarter did finally see that attempt at a turnaround, as Lithuania came out the lesser-scoring team in the period, but of course it was too late by that point.
In the earlier game in the night, USA were given more of a challenge than they likely expected, as Russia really pushed them through the first half of the game, before their concentration lapsed. Ultimately, the Russians came out 10 point losers, but could not be overly disappointed in their loss against competition clear-favourites.
The real crunch time of the tournament is now upon us. Today is merely a day of classification games for places 5-8, but on Saturday we see the beginning of the end, with Serbia, Turkey, USA and Lithuania pushing for that ultimate prize in world basketball.