ROME (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Italy went 20 years between appearances at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. Now they have reached two straight tournaments and Italian coach Andrea Capobianco is hoping his team can play with the same intensity as the U18 qualifiers.
Capobianco guided the Italians to the 2015 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup as well. Crete 2015 marked the first time Italy appeared in the U19 spectacle since 1995, when they finished 13th. The previous two U19 tournaments were much more successful for Italy, who finished third in 1987 as hosts and then reached the final in 1991.
We need to try to play with the same tenacity that we had at the Europeans and that allowed us to reach this amazing achievement." - Capobianco
In Cairo, which runs from 1-9 July, Italy have been drawn into Group D with two-time reigning champions United States, Asian U18 champions Iran and African U18 title-winners Angola.
"We know that every game is hard at the world stage," Capobianco said.
But the coach was clear about which team is expected to be the strongest in the group.
"The group will be committed to go against the USA team that surely is the favourites for this (FIBA U19 Basketball) World Cup - just like they were two years ago when they eliminated us," said Capobianco, whose team lost 86-65 to the Americans in the Quarter-Finals in Crete.
"Not only are they number one in physical abilities but they also have high tactical and technical qualities and organise the game well," Capobianco added.
But Angola and Iran will also pose tough challenges, according to the Italian boss.
"They are two teams that are tough physically but also have intriguing individuality at the youth level," Capobianco said.
The main goal for the Italians in Cairo, according to the coach, is playing with the same fire they had in Samsun in December at the FIBA U18 European Championship, when they surprised some by grabbing the third spot on the podium.
"We want to go game by game, just like we do at any of these competitions. We need to be aware of the difficulties that we may encounter along the way," Capobianco said. "But we need to try to play with the same tenacity that we had at the Europeans and that allowed us to reach this amazing achievement."