FINAL PREVIEW: USA PREPARED FOR WAR

United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski will warn his team not to sleep on Serbia in Sunday’s World Cup final in Madrid (BT Sport 1, 8pm) or risk suffering the mother of all upsets.

The unbeaten States – and their cast of NBA superstars – are the red-hot favourites to keep up an unbeaten streak that started in 2006 and included the gold medal at London 2012.

But with upstarts Serbia proving they’ll be fearless in knocking off France in Friday’s semi, Coach K has insisted there can be no letting down their guard with the trophy on the line.

“The USA is never unbeatable,” he said. “No-one is unbeatable. Anyone who thinks that is going to get beat. We’re playing against a very good team. They’re older than we are. They’ve been together longer than we have. I hope we’re unbeatable in the final.

“They’re probably the hottest team, they’ve got stars. Milos Teodosic has won a lot of championships. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a rising star. They have big guys. They’re well coached. They’re strong and they can hurt you from different positions. They’re playing great basketball right now. There’s a beauty about it and I hope I don’t see too much of it.”

The Serbs will gun for a first world title since Yugoslavia lifted the prize 12 years ago with a pledge not to back down from skipper Nenad Krstic. “We’re not going to be scared of the USA,” he said. “Now our confidence is high. We have a chance now.”

Just a slim one. The dominant USA has won every game to date in Spain by at least 19 points. But the toughness of the Serbs could be a factor in at least making the States work for the win, claims Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

“They shoot the ball really well. They’re the hottest team in the tournament. We just have to do what we’ve done and wear teams down over 40 minutes.” Resistance, he added, may be required.

“They’ll probably try and show the place down,” Thompson said. “Move the ball a lot. They’re an older team so we’ll have to push the tempo as much as possible.”

The USA may profit from an extra day’s rest since disposing of Lithuania in its semi-final, with Serbia booking their spot 24 hours later.

That, Krzyzewski insists, can be countered by their rivals familiarity to the Palacio de Deportes and the existing base here.

“It was not really an extra day of rest,” he said. “It was a travel day. That’s one thing about coming from Barcelona, we have to get a comfort level for this court quickly, whereas whoever we played would have had a week playing on this court and not travel.”

Leave that variable out though.

“That’s not going to decide the game,” added Krzyzewski. “The game will be decided on whether we can play defence well enough to stop their very potent offense and score against their very good defence.”

France claimed third place in the World Cup on Saturday by edging out Lithuania 95-93 behind 27  from Portland forward Nicolas Batum in a game polished off with the final 18 points arriving from the foul line inside 16.6 seconds.

 

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