DAY 8: SPAIN, SERBIA ADVANCE INTO QUARTERS

Spain and Serbia set up a repeat of last year’s Eurobasket final as both sides progressed into the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Championships in Turkey.

And the defending world champions – led by 22 points from Juan Carlos Navarro – produced their most impressive performance to date to beat Greece 80-72 in a game that was a repeat of the 2006 final.

The Spaniards had led 37-31 at half-time but saw the Greeks respond with a 7-0 run after the break. Their lead peaked at 51-45 with 2:45 left in the third quarter but Spain scored six straight points to level. And in the fourth, a three-point barrage sparked a 13-3 run that proved decisive with the Greeks late charge halted when they cut the gap to 72-68 with 1:01 left.

powered their way to victory. “It was a tough game for us,” said Spanish player Ricky Rubio. “We are very happy that we got a win. Greece played very physical, very aggressive.”

Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo admitted it was unfortunate the sides had met so early in the knock-out stages. “It is a pity that one of these two very good teams is going home tonight. Greece fought to the end.”

Afterwards, Dimitiris Diamantidis, widely acknowledged to be the best defensive player in Europe for the past several years, announced his international retirement to concentrate on his club career at Panathinaikos. But his time ended in a tough defeat.

“We gave Spain a battle,” said Greek star Greek player Kostis Vasiliadis. “We were so close to beating them. We gave everything.”

They will now meet Serbia in the quarter-finals on Wednesday after the 2009 Eurobasket runners-up edged old foes Croatia 73-72 in a thrilling tie.

Croatian guard Marko Popovic made two free throws with five seconds left to tie the game at 72-72. But Rasic was fouled by Davor Kus as he attempted a shot with 1 second left. He made one foul shot but it proved enough when Popovic’s full-court shot fell short as the buzzer sounded.

“It was a really tough game,” said Serb star Nenad Krstic, who had 16 points. Croatia fought hard to win so much but we fought and got the victory. As everybody sees there is no easy win or weaker team. We must play seriously every game and never give up.

“I was not expecting an easy game before the match because we had only one day off and our trip made us tired. We have reached the quarter finals and we have more days off before the next match. I do not know who will be our rival but we will be ready for the quarter final match.”

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