Italy captain Datome chasing elusive national team success in China''
ROME (Italy) - Italy captain Luigi Datome is going to play at his first FIBA Basketball World Cup this year and he wants to make the most of it.
With the Azzurri having been drawn in Group D with Serbia, Angola and the Philippines, the aim will be to not only finish in the top two to advance to the Second Round, but to take as many wins as they can with them.
That's because the Italians will then have to be among the first two in Group J, a pool that will also include the top two sides from a Group C that is made up of Spain, Iran, Puerto Rico and Tunisia.
"I've played in the NBA and won the Euroleague," Datome said. "What I'm missing is a medal with the national team. It seems like a massive undertaking, but as long as I play, I will chase it."
To get into the Final Round - which consists of the Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, 3rd-Place Game and Final - Datome has a very good idea of what needs to happen.
"It could have gone worse," he said of the recent draw in Shenzhen, China. "In order to go deep into the tournament, if I understand correctly, we will have to beat Spain or (and) Serbia."
Italy have taken on each in recent times. Serbia won 83-67 over Italy in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 while in the Group Phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2015, the Italians defeated Spain, 105-98, but fell 101-82 to the Serbians.
"We can't complain," said Italy coach Meo Sacchetti, who guide the Italians through a challenging European Qualifiers campaign.
"There are tough groups and others that are less so. Serbia was the most decorated team but we've avoided Canada. We have to win and advance to the next round. Then we'll see."
Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) President Giovanni Petrucci sounded a note of caution after the draw, saying: "We don't underestimate anyone."
Yet he also threw down the gauntlet to the team everyone expects to be Italy's biggest rival in the First Round, Serbia.
"Serbia are extremely strong," he said, "but I think that even they won't be happy to face us. We're Italy and and we cannot fear any opponent."
Datome, meanwhile, also had something to say about all the players that helped country in the European Qualifiers.
If the Italians could reach the podium, the 31-year-old said: "It would also be a nice way to honor the commitment and sacrifice of the boys who brought us to the qualification."
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