Nigeria seals historic first slot in Olympic basketball tournament
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
July 10 - Nigeria, along with Lithuania and Russia, has completed the line-up for the London 2012 men's basketball tournament after the final qualifying event in Caracas, Venezuela.
Nigeria (pictured top) made it to the Olympics for the first time in its history, stunning world number-four nation Greece in the quarter-finals.
However, the Africans lost 85-77, despite giving Russia a scare, in the semi-final, meaning the 2007 European champions also sealed an Olympic spot.
"We worked very hard over the last two months and earned our spot in the Olympics," Andrei Kirilenko (pictured below, in red), who struck 19 points in the crucial victory, told the International Basketball Federation's (FIBA) television channel.
"Credit to the Nigerians, they are a very good team and made it difficult for us and we know that every team in the Olympics will be tough to beat."
Lithuania, like Russia, booked its place in London after a victory over the Dominican Republic in the last four
The Lithuanians dominated the semi-final and won 109-83.
"We are happy to have qualified for the Olympics, my second – it was a really tough tournament but once again we proved that we are a strong basketball nation," said Jonas Mačiulis, who notched 19 points in his team's win.
"Now we have to prepare to be at our best in the Games and we are looking forward to the challenge."
After defeat to Russia, Nigeria won a tight clash with the Dominican Republic for the last spot at London 2012, eventually triumphing 88-73.
Ike Diogu, who bagged 25 points against the Dominicans, said afterwards: "I'm very happy.
"We knew we were going to face teams that are heavyweights and we did what we needed to do – win."
The world number-21 nation now joins Lithuania and 13-times and reigning Olympic champions the United States in Group A of the London 2012 draw.
Completing the group are Tunisia, France and Argentina, the only other team taking part this summer which has previously won Olympic gold.
In Group B Russia will join the hosts Great Britain, Beijing 2008 runners-up Spain, Australia, Brazil and China.
The top four teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals.
The basketball will be taking place from July 28 to August 12 at the Basketball Arena and the North Greenwich Arena.
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