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Basketball Betting World Championship Odds
Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of USA Basketball have for the first time put together a real national team, forming a roster of players committed to at least three years with the team to build up a sense of continuity missing from previous U.S. national teams.
After finishing sixth at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, the Americans crashed to the bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. In each event, the homeland of basketball suffered three defeats. Before losing to Argentina midway through the 2002 event, Team USA had piled up a 58-0 record in international competitions while using NBA players -- dating back to the original Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
This year's squad is captained by a trio of young NBA superstars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. All three players were on the 2004 Olympic roster and are now looking to help erase those bad memories.
"I personally get an opportunity to try to redeem myself, along with Dwayne and Carmelo," James said. "It's motivation for me, and I am very excited that the coaching staff decided to keep me on this team. I just have to go out and showcase my talent the best way I can, to do whatever it takes and to represent the United States of America."
The Americans are overwhelming favorites in Group D, which also includes 2004 Olympic silver medalist Italy, China, Slovenia, Senegal and Puerto Rico.
Argentina, meanwhile, has 10 of the 12 players back from the team which captured the gold medal in Athens. But the team, which features NBA stars such as Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni, has struggled in the run-up to the tournament, losing three of its final four warm-ups, including losses to Spain and Serbia & Montenegro.
"I hope this team can keep up with the high hopes and expectations. If we can come out with the same mental toughness and will that we played with in the World Championship in Indianapolis and the Olympic Games, we will be fine," Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said.
Ginobili and company are drawn into Group A along with two-time defending champions Serbia & Montenegro, France, Venezuela, Lebanon and Nigeria.
The showdown with the former Yugoslavs is a rematch of the 2002 final in the United States, where Serbia & Montenegro captured the nation's fifth world championship title as Argentina was playing without an injured Ginobili.
Dragan Sakota's Serbia & Montenegro side comes into the tournament in the strange situation of not being among the favorites. The team failed to reach even the quarterfinals of the 2005 EuroBasket in its own nation, setting off a flurry of finger-pointing among the team's NBA players.
Sakota, however, has revamped the squad with a number of young, highly motivated and talented players, hoping to start a new era for the team. Captain Igor Rakocevic is the only player with World Championship or Olympic experience. And he and Darko Milicic are the only two players remaining from the 2005 team -- with Milicic being the only NBA player on Sakota's squad.
"We always have the biggest wish to win the game," Rakocevic said. "We have a very good chemistry and attitude among ourselves and that definitely gives us a good 10 points per game. We have a lot of talent, but all our players are very young and we have no experience, especially in international tournaments."
France, for its part, was dealt a huge blow to its title hopes on Friday when star point guard Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs was ruled out of the championships due to a broken finger.
Among the other teams with chances to grab the title are Brazil and reigning European champion Greece, both of which are teamed in the extremely difficult and balanced Group C, which also includes Turkey, Australia, Lithuania and Qatar.
With a star-studded lineup including Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Manuel Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa, Spain must also be considered one of the title contenders. Spain faces a tough test in Group B with 2005 European silver medalist Germany, which will be carried by superstar Dirk Nowitzki. The other teams in Group B are tournament host Japan, 2002 semifinalist New Zealand, Panama and African champions Angola.
The first round of games are being played in Hiroshima, Sendai, Hamamatsu and Sapparo. Starting with the Round of 16, the knock-out stages will be played in Saitama.
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