“We will try to put everything, although we are certainly not the favorites,” said Veselý, who was there when the national team dramatically beat Greece 97:72 in the final of the Olympic qualification last July in Victoria, Canada. But there, the opponent is missing the biggest star Janis Adetokunbo from Milwaukee, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and leading scorer in this year’s European Championship with an average of 29.5 points per game.
“With Janis, the Greeks are three times the better team. It’s difficult, we have to prepare him and I take the news that he sprained his ankle at the end of the group in Milan with a grain of salt. They have two days to put him on the pile,” thinks the Czech basketball player, who also pays attention to the excellent point guard Nick Caathes from Barcelona.
Greece has not known defeat in the main group, giving up at least 85 points in all five games. “We have to focus on spoiling their stars as much as possible. We’re definitely not going to stop Janis in the one-on-one game, so we want to try to double him, help ourselves. It will be a very challenging match,” added Tomáš Satoranský, who after a three-week-old ankle injury directed a promotion win over Israel on Thursday.
In the main match against the Israelis, Veselý played over 33 minutes, the most of any Czech player. “I’m done. We know it’s do or die, so we went with it. Our game is aggressive and fast, that’s what we need to show. I’m glad that Saty is such a fool and helped us even with the injured ankle,” he recounts and reminds that for coach Ronen Ginzburg, who has been a Czech citizen for two years, the duel against his native country was quite prestigious. “Normally, the coach only tells the opponents numbers, but in this game, he gives straight names. That’s the only change,” he laughs.
The 32-year-old summer signing from Barcelona, like his team-mates, had higher pre-tournament ambitions than fourth place from the home side of the tournament, but is happy to the playoffs are coming and can continue to dream of victory. “A stone fell from our hearts. Our goal was to get away from the group, we succeeded. Although not in the way we thought, progress is progress and with all the problems we have, it has weight,” he said.
After the special flight in the morning, the national team was only able to train in the early evening at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena for 14,500 spectators, which will host all the matches of the knockout stages of the championship. Advancing teams not only from Prague, but also Milan, Cologne and Tbilisi moved to the German capital on Friday.
Both would-be teammates from Barcelona are aware that the eight-final role of the written-off can testify to the Czech Republic. “The ball is round, no matter what happens. We definitely didn’t go on a trip to Berlin. We want to give the best possible performance, try the impossible and fight like lions,” said Veselý. “We will be outsiders, nothing is expected of us. Perhaps this position suits us best. We will miss Prague,” suggested Satoranský.