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Greece, Croatia qualify for Beijing Olympics
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Greece and Croatia booked their places at the Beijing Olympic Games after winning Saturday's semifinals in the men's basketball qualifying tournament.

Dirk Norwitzki, former NBA MVP

Croatia secured its spot with a tight 76-70 win over favorite Germany while the host had a smoother passage, beating Puerto Rico 88-63. The two losers will meet in a playoff on Sunday to see who takes the 12th and final place in Beijing.

Germany's defeat by Croatia came in spite of a superb performance from Dallas Mavericks' power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who notched up 30 points and claimed 13 defensive rebounds.

Led by Marko Tomas who scored 21 points, the 20th-ranked Croatians showed how much their game has improved over the last week.

"We weren't a good team before this tournament but we stepped up and proved that we could play good basketball," said guard Marko Popovic.

The Germans trailed for most of the game, nudging ahead only briefly two minutes before the end of the third quarter.

A crucial Davor Kus 3-pointer with just over three and a half minutes left to play gave Croatia a 10-point cushion and it held on despite a late fight-back by the Germans.

Greece's performance against Puerto Rico will merely strengthen the view that it is genuine medal contender.

"We are not going to the Olympics for a holiday," said power forward Antonis Fotsis.

"We want to go for something good and we will fight in every game."

(Agencies via China Daily July 21, 2008)


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