VICTORIA (Canada) – Cedi Osman called this a game of revenge. Not everyone saw it that way. But it was hard to ignore the importance of the confrontation.
Turkey-Czech Republic, European counterparts, a rematch of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, a place in the Olympics at stake.
Turkey and Osman have taken their revenge and are two wins away from the biggest basketball tournament in the world.
“Today was a special game for us,” Turkey’s Furkan Korkmaz said after the victory.
Turkey beat the Czech Republic 87-70 on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria. The victory not only brought Turkey closer to their first Olympics since 1952, but avenged a loss two years ago that still hurt.
In it, the Czech Republic shot 59% from the field and faced Turkey 91-76 in the pool at the World Cup in China. There was a lot of familiarity in the rematch as 13 players from that game took to the pitch on Wednesday, but the result was refreshing for the winners. It was Turkey’s first victory against the Czech Republic since 2013.
Turkey did not make it past the group stage at the World Cup, and the loss to the Czech Republic played a big part. Wednesday’s victory turned the tide and put the Czechs on the ropes – they must win Thursday against Uruguay to advance to the OQT semi-finals.
“I feel like it’s time for revenge,” Osman said after Turkey’s group stage victory over Uruguay. “We know them very well, they know us, so it will be a really fun game to play tomorrow. I can not wait.
Osman, Korkmaz, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Yurtseven give Turkey NBA talent that only Canada, of Victoria’s six teams, can match. The Czech Republic isn’t as busy, but still has Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely – two of the country’s four players who have played in the NBA before. Vesely was not part of the 2019 World Cup squad who easily beat Turkey, giving the Czech some extra ammo this time around.
But Turkey, who are motivated to prove that they can “beat everyone in this (tournament)” as Korkmaz put it, outscored the Czechs with a blazing attack and physical defense.
“They have young guys who are really hungry, they want to show off,” Czech Ondrej Balvin said after the match. “They stepped up today.”
The biggest difference for Turkey from 2019 to 2021? Experience, according to the Sertac Sanli center. Some of Turkey’s young rising stars are not yet 25.
That means the time has come for Turkey, said Korkmaz, calling the era the “golden generation” of basketball in his country.
A rematch is a good step.
“It was (circled on our timeline),” Korkmaz said. “We don’t forget any defeat, no victory.”