The USA Conundrum: Lithuania Joins the Unfortunate Trend
One might assume that defeating the United States at the FIBA Basketball World Cup is a remarkable achievement. However, the past two decades of this competition have unveiled a peculiar pattern that turns victory into an almost ominous curse.
Lithuania sent shockwaves through the basketball world with an electrifying performance, scoring well over 100 points to secure a thrilling 110-104 victory over the USA. However, their exuberance was short-lived, as they faced a resolute and laser-focused Serbia in the Quarter-Finals, succumbing to an 87-68 defeat.
Despite their historic win against the USA, Lithuania’s players were quick to emphasize that the euphoria had long dissipated before their clash with Serbia.
Tadas Sedekerskis, reflecting on their loss to Serbia, stated, “The game against the United States, as you can see now, means nothing. Just history. Now we don’t have any chances to fight for the medals. We knew that. We didn’t think: Oh, we are good because we won against the United States. Serbia has great players like (Bogdan) Bogdanovic and others. So it was easy to forget. Maybe for the fans no, but for us players, I can guarantee you 100 percent that we forgot that game.”
Yet, it seems that the basketball gods have not been merciful to teams that overcome the USA in recent World Cups. The elation of beating the Americans, coupled with the physical and mental toll, has proven to be an insurmountable challenge when refocusing for the subsequent knockout game.
A glance at recent history reveals a recurring theme: teams that have vanquished the USA subsequently face a stark defeat in their next match.
In 2006, Greece shocked the world by defeating the USA 101-95 in the Semi-Finals, upending a star-studded American lineup featuring LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Global Ambassador Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, and Dwight Howard, all aged 24 or younger. However, the Greek squad was then overwhelmed in the Final by Spain, losing 70-47.
During the last World Cup, France eliminated the Americans in the Quarter-Finals with an 89-79 victory. Nevertheless, Les Bleus met a similar fate, being ousted by Argentina 80-66 in the Semi-Finals.
Argentina made history in 2002 by becoming the first team to defeat a USA squad composed of NBA stars since their inclusion a decade earlier. This victory occurred in the final game of the second group stage. The South Americans went on to defeat Brazil in the Quarter-Finals and Germany in the Semi-Finals before ultimately succumbing to Yugoslavia in the Final.
The 2002 champion, Yugoslavia, stands as the last team to defeat the USA in a knockout round during the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup in 2002 and subsequently claim the championship. Since then, this peculiar curse has continued its mystifying influence.
Now, Lithuania’s 2023 team finds itself in the company of Greece in 2006 and France in 2019, each experiencing the perplexing phenomenon of the USA curse in FIBA World Cup history.