Despite seizing a forgettable defeat at their Final Round play in the hands of the United States, Nicolo Melli stands proud and delighted with Italy’s FIBA Basketball World Cup progress this year.
In the postgame of their 100-63 disastrous defeat against the Americans on Tuesday, Melli proclaimed that they would look to regroup and be back on track for a potential berth in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris as they settled for a quarterfinal finish at this year’s FIBA Championships.
“Of course. I already said it couple of times in interview at post game You need to be lucky. I think we did everything we could do in our group. We are the first [at our group]. Im really proud to be part of this group, of this team. I think this time, we deserve to maybe a little bit better, a little bit more. We deserve to overcome quarterfinals, but you need to know how to win how to lose,” he said.
“We will be back next summer. We will try to qualify for the Olympics. And if not, we gonna be there at the next summer and the next summer again. They ask me what this group can do more? There’s nothing that this group can do more. We did everything we could do. So this year, this season, [we will] come back next year and again, and again, and again until we finally make it.”
The No. 10 team in the current FIBA World rankings, Italy impressed fans with its uncanny, collective type of play. As they emphasized shooting and ball movement under animated mentor Gianmarco Pozzecco, Gil Azzurri managed to come out of the Group Phase play firmly — posting a 4-1 record which even involved a solid escape win over fellow powerhouse and now World Cup Semis-bound Serbia.
But this time, they ran through a motivated United States team looking to bounce back from their humiliating loss against Lithuania last Sunday. The Americans didn’t show mercy as early as the first half against Gil Azzurri with Mikal Bridges in front of the demolition.
As Bridges posted a game-high 24 markers, the U.S. built as much as a 41-point margin to their wire-to-wire performance against Italy, advancing to the next round roaring with a deafening statement.
But in the end, it’s truly nothing but a superb campaign for Italy amid the painful game that ousted them from World Cup contention.
This year’s World Cup gave the Italians their best finish on the world stage in the last 25 years. For Melli, while they are now set to start processing their unwanted exit, Italy’s mark as one of the Top 8 teams in the basketball world remains a gratifying achievement at the end of the day.
“I think it’s very important,” Melli said about Italy making a significant World Cup move after 25 years. “But you know, at the same time, as an athlete, we want to go home after being one month and a half in training camp and competing. You want to go home with a medal. You don’t want to go home and say we’re Top 8.
“But at the same time, we should be proud of what we did. We received a lot of love, a lot of support from the fans back home, from our families and friends. So this is something we should cherish – we should give great value.
“As I said, sports is life. We will be back.”