Greece Buys World Hoop Ticket

Despite erratic play that seemed to doom its chances, Greece has gotten one of the four wild cards granted by FIBA and will take part in the World Championship this year in Spain, which got the silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics, losing to the U.S. team dominated by NBA All-Stars.

Basketball’s world governing body filled the four empty slots for the tournament, scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 14, by inviting Greece, Turkey, Brazil and Finland, out of 14 candidates.

Greece had failed to get a invitation because of its poor performance in the 2013 European championships, finishing a mediocre 4-4 with uninspired play that ired Greek fans, but got the FIBA pass because it still stands fifth in the world rankings.

Participation in the World Championship also means Greece will not have to negotiate a qualifying round in order to play in the 2015 Eurobasket.

Among the candidates for the wild cards were Russia, Germany, Italy and China, but all reportedly withdrew from the process for various reasons, with Germany and Italy protesting about the financial requirements that wild card receivers had to pay 800,000 euros ($1.079 million) essentially meaning it bought its way into the tourney.

Greece’s basketball federation head Giorgos Vassilakopoulos said it would be paid by the team’s sponsor, Eurobank, because of Greece’s economic crisis and government cutbacks, including for national sports teams.

The draw for the World Championship will take place on Feb. 3  in Madrid.

When the Greek delegation returns from Spain it will start the hunt for a new coach, with favorites including former Greece coach Panayiotis Giannakis and Bilbao coach Fotis Katsikaris.

Greece was knocked out early in the 2010 championships in Istanbul, losing to Turkey and Russia in group play and then to Spain in the round of 16. Greece lost to Spain in the 2006 championships final after surprising the US team, 101-95 in the semi-final, shocking the basketball world.

In 2010, Spain lost in the quarter-finals to Serbia, which then lost a heartbreaker to Turkey by a single point in the semi-finals, allowing the hosts to reach the final where they were dominated by the Americans and lost handily, 81-64, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.