US face tough competition to defend Olympic basketball title
Monday, 30 April 2012
April 30 - The United States have been pitted with Argentina, France and Tunisia as they seek to defend their Olympic basketball title following the draw in Rio de Janeiro today.
They will also play the top two teams from the world qualifiers in Venezuela this July.
The 2004 Olympic champions Argentina, winners of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas Championship in 2011, could be the trickiest opponents, while African champions Tunisia and European runners-up France will also test the Americans.
The US will be heavy favourites to win a 14th gold medal though this summer.
Spain, who lost to the US in the Beijing 2008 final, will go up against hosts Britain, competing at the Olympics for the first time since 1948, when they last hosted the Games, in Group B.
The European champions will also face Brazil, Oceania champions Australia, Asian champions China and the third qualifier from Venezuela.
Teams going to Venezuela are Angola, the Dominican Republic, Macedonia, Greece, Jordan, South Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Russia and the South American hosts.
In the women's draw the six-times gold medallists US, also defending their title, will face Asian champions China, African champions Angola and the teams finishing first, second and fourth in June's world qualifiers in Turkey.
Australia, runners up at the last three Games, take on hosts Britain, European champions Russia and South America's best, Brazil in Group B.
They will be joined by the third and fifth best teams from the world qualifiers.
The teams going to Turkey for those qualifiers are the hosts, Argentina, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Japan, South Korea, Mozambique, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.
Following the draw, FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann said: "For every major Championship, the draw is a major milestone.
"Players begin picturing themselves on the court and thinking about match-ups.
"Fans start imagining the atmosphere.
"The 2008 men's final between the USA and Spain was one of the greatest Olympic moments.
"It showed the huge strides international basketball had made in becoming more and more competitive.
"I expect this year's Olympic basketball tournaments will be a great and memorable spectacle for all."
This summer's Olympic basketball tournaments take place in the Basketball Arena and North Greenwich Arena - better known as the O2 - from July 28 to August 12, with the top four teams from each group advancing to the quarter-finals.