U.S. Olympic Basketball: 4 Countries with the Best Shot at Taking Down the U.S.
Going into the 2012 Olympics, the United States is thought to be the front-runner for the gold medal in basketball.
The Americans have already suffered numerous injuries to key players, and are currently thin in the frontcourt. If any teams wish to knock off the United States, they are going to have to attack with size and strong defense. They have been beaten before on the world's biggest stage and it could always happen again.
These are the four teams with the best shot of knocking out the Americans.
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Important Players: Anderson Varejao, Nene Hilario, Leandro Barbosa and Tiago Splitter
The United States is especially deep in the backcourt, but are lacking an inside presence. Varejao, Hilario and Splitter may be able to take advantage of the Americans' lack of size. Their weakness, however, will be scoring.
Barbosa is their best offensive weapon, but he is inconsistent at times. With some of the NBA's top guards on him, Barbosa will have a tough time taking over the game.
Expect Brazil to be able to bang down low with America but ultimately not be able to match their guard play. In a low-scoring game, Brazil's defense and inside scoring may be a key factor for them to squeak out a win.
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Important Players: Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Luis Scola and Pablo Pirgioni
The aging Argentinean squad still has the same nucleus from when they captured gold in 2004. Although stars such as Ginobili and Scola have gotten older, they still play at a high level in the NBA so there is no reason to expect anything different in the Olympics.
Look for Pablo Pirgioni to take a bigger role in the team this time around. The guard averaged 9.8 points and 4.7 assists in the Argentineans' latest tournament. He has taken some pressure off of Ginobili in the backcourt and could be the key for Argentina to recapture the gold.
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Important Players: Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Kevin Seraphin
This placement depends mightily on how much action Tony Parker sees during the Olympics. Parker's left eye was injured as he was a bystander to a fight in a club, and he may have to withdraw himself from the Olympics. The decision is up to his doctors and the Spurs organization.
If Parker is out, so are the French. He is the heart and soul of the team which can only go as far as he takes them. The underperforming French team does have many solid pieces aside from Parker such as Batum, Diaw and Seraphin, but Parker is the real star.
Depending on the development of Seraphin's game and Parker's injury concern, France could be a major player or could take an early exit from the 2012 Games.
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Important Players: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon
Ranked No. 2 in the world, Spain is the closest team in terms of talent to the United States and have the players that could take them down. The Gasol brothers and Ibaka form a dominating back line that may have the upper hand on the Americans.
In the backcourt, Calderon and Fernandez will be called upon to check some of the most dominating players in the world. If they can live up to the challenge, Spain could very well avenge its 2008 final game loss to the Americans.
The loss of dazzling point guard Ricky Rubio to a knee injury during the NBA season hurts Spain, but they have enough talent to win without him. If the Spaniards can play as a team and keep the United States offense in check, they could be walking away with the gold.