Fiba World Cup: Italy coach notches history but won't compare team to old Azzurri | Inquirer Sports

Fiba World Cup: Italy coach notches history but won’t compare team to old Azzurri

/ 11:32 PM September 03, 2023

Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco

Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines–Gianmarco Pozzecco has been a part of multiple fabled Italian national teams as a player. He became a part of another on Sunday night—this time, as a coach.

The animated mentor steered the Azzurri to a 73-57 rout of Puerto Rico to book a spot in the 2023 Fiba World Cup’s quarterfinals—the country’s first in 25 years.

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“I love my players. They’re amazing,” he said shortly after the win at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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Pozzeco was the point guard for the Azzurri squad that made the quarterfinals and finished 6th place in the 1998 World Cup (then World Championship) held in Greece. He was also a member of the crew that won silver in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

Asked how this edition of Italy’s national team stacks up with his squads of old, Pozzecco responded with a candid take.

“There’s nothing to compare,” he said. “At that moment, It was totally different. I’ve got so much respect for my teammate who played with me at that moment. Of course coach Bogdan Tanjević—one of the best persons that I’ve met in my life. But there’s nothing to compare.”

“I’m also proud when we played in 2004 in Athens and won the silver medal. But what they did until today, we didn’t do. OK, we achieved greater result, and everybody reminds us of that in Italy, but (this squad) did something plus.”

Pozzecco’s charges were perfect in their seven preparatory games for the World Cup. That hot streak carried over into the big dance, with the Azzurri beating Angola, the Philippines, World No. 6 Serbia, and now, gutsy Puerto Rico.

“What they did—these guys—is totally different,” he said. “They’re really focused on what they’re doing. I asked them before the match: ‘Do you want to continue?’ They show me on the court their desire.”

Italy will face a tougher foe in the quarterfinals however as a Lithuania upset over the United States, 110-104, later on Sunday put the Americans in the path of the Azzurri.

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TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Italy

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