The symbolic launch of their Olympic journey at Uluru last week could prepare the Boomers for the obstacles to come, as three Uluru-sized obstacles – Croatia, Serbia and France – have been placed between them and Australia’s first ever Olympic medal.
Australia’s pool, once considered ideal, now contains 2014 World Cup silver medalist Serbia and the Tony Parker led French, who will be betting on big results despite being without a number of their NBA players, including Joakim Noah.
The Serbian and French teams earned their tickets to Rio after defeating Puerto Rico and Canada respectively in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournaments. However the Croatians had to defeat Italy for their rite of passage.
Given that the Boomers’ pool already contains the Gold Medal favourites USA, there will be a logjam for a prized second position in the pool which contains as many as four genuine medal hopefuls.
Despite the pool’s newfound competitiveness, Australia can expect to advance to the knockout stages with Venezuela and China likely to fill positions 5 and 6. Pool A is still the preferable group to draw because it means escaping a quarterfinal death kiss from the Americans, and having to contend with the five European superpowers that sit menacingly in Pool B.
Pool B could easily hold five of the top six teams in the tournament in Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Lithuania and Croatia. Australia can thank their lucky stars that they aren’t starting off in this group of death where the eagles will fly in circular formations over hallowed basketball courts, waiting for quality teams to relinquish their carcass of broken dreams. Whilst Australia will be spared the Americans in the first crossover game, they won’t be greeted with milk and cookies by any of these teams.
A crossover game with Spain wouldn’t be on Andrej Lemanis’ bucket list. However, before Australia even gets that far they will be met with a baptism of fire.
Australia’s first game will be against France on August 6th, followed by Serbia and the USA only a few days later. They will close out the pool rounds with China and Venezuela.