Serbia has a chance for its biggest win in 21 years. Canada is seeking its first medal at a major global tournament in 87 years. Germany is one win away from its biggest basketball accomplishment, ever.
And then, there's the US, playing for bronze.
The Basketball World Cup — a 32-team odyssey that played out in three countries over the last 2½ weeks — ends in Manila on Sunday with the medal games. It's an all-European final with Germany (7-0) facing Serbia (6-1) for gold and an all-North American matchup with Canada (5-2) playing the US (5-2) for the bronze.
“The world is good at basketball,” US point guard and captain Jalen Brunson said Saturday at the team's final practice of the summer. “Respect everybody.”
Germany and Serbia have certainly earned tons of respect and will be on the medal podium together just as they were at the 2002 world championships; Serbia won its most recent world title in that event (as the former Yugoslavia) while Germany got what, until now, was its first and only World Cup or Olympics medal — a bronze.
Germany reached the final by topping the US 113-111 in the semifinals. Serbia beat Canada 95-86 in the other semi-final.
“From the first day we got together this summer, we believed that we're a special group and we can win against any team,” German forward Franz Wagner said.
Serbian coach Svetislav Pesic was the gold-medal-winning coach in that 2002 tournament. Now 74, he has a chance to win the World Cup again 21 years later.
“I don't want to say it, but he's toward the end of his career,” Serbian forward Filip Petrusev said. “He accepted the job to try to bring a medal back, so I think it means the world to him, means the world to us, everybody back home.”
There were 26 NBA players in the World Cup semi-finals, 19 of them playing on the US or Canadian rosters — and at least seven of those 19 guys won't be going home with a medal. Germany has four NBA players, and Serbia has three.
“Part of the competition is you're not going to win every time,” US coach Steve Kerr said. “You're going to compete, do everything you can to win, but part of the competition is accepting the fact that there's going to be some heartbreak.”
There's going to be more on Sunday for either the US or Canada.
The rivalry between neighbour nations officially goes back 87 years — they played in the final of the 1936 Olympic tournament, the US winning 19-8 in a game played outdoors, in a rainstorm, on a clay court that was a muddy, sloppy mess. In senior men's competitions, the US is 21-1 against Canada; the loss was in the preliminary round of the 2005 FIBA Americas championship.