Croatia opened their Olympic qualifying campaign on Wednesday against Brazil at Spaladium Arena in Split. After three years, Croatia’s best basketball player Bojan Bogdanović played an official game in the Croatia jersey again.
The tournament opened on Tuesday, June 29. In Croatia’s group, Brazil, led by the former Croatia coach Aco Petrović, convincingly defeated Tunisia 83:57. In the other, Group A, Germany beat Mexico 82:76.
Brazil led 4:0 at the start of the 1st quarter until Ukić scored Croatia’s first basket and a 3-pointer for 4:3 with 8:20 to go. An Ukić field goal made it 10:5 before Sakić and Dreznjak came back for 12:10. With 3:37 to go, Croatia was down 23:10 before Žižić scored for 23:12 and 23:14.
Žižić was on fire with a 2pt driving layup for 23:16!
A personal foul saw Hezonja make both free throws for 24:18 with just under two minutes to go. A 2pt jump shot from Rogić put Croatia just 4 behind at 24:20. The 1st quarter ended 25:20 for Brazil.
The 2nd quarter started with a foul drawn on Hezonja who scored both free throws to reduce Brazil’s lead to +3 (25:22). Hezonja’s 2pt driving layup made it 28:24 with 7:38 to go. Bogdanović re-entered the game straight after.
Marčinković nailed a stunning 3-pointer for 31:27 with 6 minutes left. Brazil had a 10-point lead with 4 left (37:27). Ukić assisted Bilan for 37:29.
An Ukić 3-pointer gave Croatia life again as they were behind by 5 with just over 2 minutes to go (37:32).
Bogdanović made up for his poor play in the game thus far by nailing a 2pt jump shot for 37:34. Croatia called a timeout at 40:34 and 45 seconds to go. Brazil ended the 2nd quarter with a 3-pointer for 45:34.
The 3rd quarter started with Brazil leading 49:34. Ukić missed two free throws, but Hezonja made two soon after for 49:36.
A Bogdanović 3-pointer made it 51:41, followed by a 2pt fadeaway jump shot for 54:43. A Žižić dunk and free throw saw Croatia come back for 54:46.
A 3pt jump shot by Jordano slighted reduced Croatia’s gap to -12 (61:49) with 3:16 to go. Bogdanović reduced it to -10 moments later (62:52).
Bogdanović scored both free throws for 63:54 with 2 minutes to go. The 3rd quarter ended 71:55 for Brazil.
Ukić opened the final quarter with a stunning 3 points for 71:58. With 7 minutes left in the game, Brazil led 79:59.
Bogdanović nailed a 3-pointer for 84:62, but Brazil’s lead was too hard to catch. It was 90:62 with just over two minutes left in the game.
Bilan scored for 92:64, but Brazil kept increasing their lead. In the final minute of the game, it was 94:66. Dreznjak scored 1/2 free throws, and the game ended 94:67.
Croatia plays against Tunisia at the same time tomorrow. After the group stage, there is a day of rest, and on July 3, the semifinal matches are scheduled. The final match is scheduled for July 4 at 7:30 pm. Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Croatia’s group crosses over with Germany, Russia, and Mexico.
The Split tournament and the other three hosted by Belgrade, Kaunas, and Victoria in Canada are all scheduled from June 29 to July 4, 2021.
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