‘Stupid’ Jokic ejected as Spain stun Serbia at Basketball World Cup

Nikola Jokic was ejected for “a stupid reaction” in the third quarter. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2019

‘Stupid’ Jokic ejected as Spain stun Serbia at Basketball World Cup

  • Spain and European rivals Serbia had already qualified for the last eight

WUHAN, China: All-Star Nikola Jokic was ejected for “a stupid reaction” in the third quarter as strongly fancied Serbia were stunned 81-69 by Spain to blow the Basketball World Cup wide open on Sunday.
Led by Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns, Spain set up a quarter-final meeting with surprise packages Poland on Tuesday while Serbia will need to pick themselves up quickly for Argentina on the same evening.
Spain and European rivals Serbia had already qualified for the last eight in China but Group J supremacy and a supposedly easier game in the next round was at stake.
Serbia, the reigning world and Olympic silver medallists behind the Americans, had looked imperious in their previous four matches, but this loss will raise questions about their title credentials.
Coach Sasha Djordjevic said Spain were the better team and refused to use the loss of Jokic — turfed out after yelling at a referee — as an excuse.
But he hard harsh words for his key man, saying: “I did not like the stupid reaction of my player, who should be on the floor.
“We can even lose with him, why not if the other team is better? But he should stay on the floor and be one of the leaders.”
In one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the tournament so far, Spain surged back from a slow start in the first quarter to lead by eight points at half-time in Wuhan.
Serbia, who had looked the chief threat to the young roster of reigning champions the US, were rattled for the first time in China and on their way toward a first defeat.
Midway through the third quarter, their chances of making a comeback suffered a fatal blow when Denver Nuggets’ Jokic — one of the World Cup’s biggest names — was thrown out.
The 24-year-old was irritated initially by the close attentions of Spain’s defense and made his feelings clear to the officials.
The plain-speaking Djordjevic said he had already spoken to Jokic about the incident.
“We don’t have time for long meetings, he knows (he was wrong),” said Djordjevic.
“He’s a tough kid, one of the greatest right now, (so) we need him on the floor.
“I hope it won’t happen again and this is a moment for him to grow.”
Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings was again key for Serbia, keeping them within range of Spain with 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Rubio racked up 19 points for the Spanish while veteran Marc Gasol had six rebounds and six assists.
“They really kicked us today,” said Bogdanovic, who has been in sparkling form at the World Cup and was unlucky to be on the losing side.
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo was full of praise for the 27-year-old Bogdanovic, calling him “ridiculous” and “an unbelievable player.”
Argentina topped Group I — and teed up a meeting with Serbia — after a dominant 91-65 victory over Poland. Both had already reached the last eight.

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”