MANILA, Philippines — Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco wants the Azzurri to dream big in their 10th Fiba World Cup appearance as they kick off their Group A campaign against Angola on Friday at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“My goal is that my players dream. Dream and enjoy and continue to love each other, respect each other, respect my staff,” said Pozzecco in the introductory press conference on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “Love the game. All that basketball can give you, positive emotion. They did a pretty good job, so I love them and respect them.”
With the Italians raring to return to the top four for the first time since the 1978 edition in Manila, team captain Luigi Datome hopes that they will continue to play on the same page for them to translate their perfect 7-0 record from their friendlies into World Cup success.
“We’re a team that loves to stay together. We love to play together. We know that if we can play the same kind of basketball, we can be dangerous,” said Datome. “The goal is to play as many minutes as possible in that way. I’m really excited. Very happy to be here. All the stages are unbelievable. One month of preparation, very excited, cannot wait because we worked out in this country and we’re ready to go.”
Italy, currently ranked 10th in the world in men’s Fiba competitions, took down Turkey, China, Serbia, Greece, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and New Zealand to sweep all their tune-up games before the World Cup.
Datome, the remaining member of Italy’s 10th-place finish in the 2019 World Cup in China, wants to take one step at a time in Group A, focusing on Angola first on Friday before thinking of home team Gilas Pilipinas on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“From the little experience I have, we focus on one game at a time, and our focus is on Angola. In two days, we think about the Philippines. But of course, they’re a very good team. They’ll be tough. Lots of fans, rowdy fans, noisy fans, but now we focus on Angola,” said the former NBA player.
Pozzecco, who confessed to being a big Manny Pacquiao fan, agreed with Datome: “Gigi’s right. We focus on Angola. Of course, we know, we will play not just against one team, but against one country. But we will support them, our players. It will be nice for us.”
All eyes are on Utah Jazz winger, Simone Fontecchio, who emerged as the Italians’ main man in their past three major tournaments in the World Cup qualifiers, EuroBasket, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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