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Croatian Planinic sets off dark horse run in Olympic basketball
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Zoran Planinic is not a star of Croatia, as the team in the men's basketball pool, but the guard set off a dark horse run with his team at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Croatia have booked a berth in the quarter-finals and are seeking for a higher position in the preliminary round to continue their upsets.

After absenting from the Olympics for 12 years, Croatia claimed the previous chance to play in Beijing with a 4-0 record at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.

A 97-82 debut win over Australia Sunday put Croatia one foot into the top eight, and Planinic buried a 3-pointer and grabbed a crucial offensive rebound to insure an 85-78 surprise of European champions Russia on Tuesday.

"We've got no superstars in this team, so we're going to rely on our teamwork. We know Argentina, Lithuania and Russia are better teams than us, but I'm confident we'll get enough to make an upset in the following matches," Planinic said after win over Australia.

Born on December 9, 1982, Planinic was the starting point guard of Cibona Zagreb at 19 and led the team to Croatian domestic titles in 2001 and 2002.

He was selected in the first round by the New Jersey Nets in 2003 and returned to Europe after three frustrating seasons in the United States.

On height of 1.98 meters, Planinic is one of the best point guards in European League with his good passing and shooting skills.

He will play for CSKA Moscow next season after leading Tau Vitoria to the title in Spain.

In Tuesday's game, he scored 20 points, 5-out-of-6 in the field,2-out-of-3 on 3-pointer and 4-out-of-5 on foul line, to give out one of almost perfect performances at the Games.

"We were expecting this. After we qualified, we knew there wouldn't be much pressure so we are playing relaxedly, and we're proud of what we've done here," Planinic said on Tuesday.

(Xinhua News Agency August 12, 2008)

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