Roberto Mancini believes an improving Italy are ready to compete with the continent's top teams after sealing a place at Euro 2020.

Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi scored in a 2-0 victory over Greece in Rome on Saturday to confirm the Azzurri's qualification from Group J.

Euro 2020 will mark the nation's first appearance at a major tournament in four years following the shock failure to reach the World Cup in Russia.

Mancini took charge in the aftermath of that debacle and has guided a refreshed side to an eight-match winning streak, one short of the Italy record achieved under Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.

"We created a team in a short time and it wasn't that easy," Mancini said.

"Much of the credit must be given to the players. I tried to make them believe in their qualities at a time when many said there were no players with quality. I just needed a little patience.

"There is no absolute star, but there is a group that fights, that plays good football and that must improve.

"We haven't won anything, but we have qualified with three games to play. We must be very happy considering what our starting point was.

"I don't think there's a big gap to the big European teams."

Though his team held the hosts goalless for over an hour at Stadio Olimpico, Greece boss John van't Schip agreed with Mancini's assessment of Italy as a potential contender at next year's tournament.

"They have overcome the crisis they went through two years ago," he said.

"Italy can be a very dangerous outsider for the Euros or maybe even one of the favourites."

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma paid tribute to Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini after Saturday's 2-0 win over Greece secured their place at Euro 2020 with three matches to spare.

Italy went into the match at Rome's Stadio Olimpico having won each of their first six Group J matches and knew another victory would confirm their participation in next year's tournament.

It was by no means plain-sailing against a Greece side who set up to frustrate Italy, with Mancini's side barely troubling the visitors' defence in the first half.

But Andreas Bouchalakis blocked a Lorenzo Insigne shot with his arm just past the hour and Jorginho dispatched the penalty, before Federico Bernardeschi's late strike wrapped the win up.

And Donnarumma applauded the impact of Mancini, who has restored pride to Italy after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

"He is a great coach, we listen to him," Donnarumma told Rai Sport. "He has good principles.

"We all listen to him and we must do that also during the Euros because he will surely lead us on the right track."

Victory over Greece was Mancini's eighth successive win, meaning he could equal Italy's all-time record of consecutive triumphs against Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

But Mancini dismissed the importance of that, highlighting the coach who set the record – Vittorio Pozzo – has an altogether more impressive legacy.

"Pozzo is a legend because he won two World Cups, the rest does not count," Mancini added.

"We hope the magical nights return and that in June it's even more beautiful."

Italy clinched a place at Euro 2020 as Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi scored in Saturday's 2-0 win over Greece.

Roberto Mancini's men were far from at their fluent best at Stadio Olimpico, appearing devoid of craft against an often-packed Greece defence, but a pair of second-half goals ensured they did enough to make sure of a top-two finish in Group J.

The victory extended their strong qualification campaign, giving Italy a seventh successive victory.

Unsurprisingly, Greece set up to frustrate Italy and they certainly achieved that goal in the first half, with the Azzurri crafting few notable opportunities in a dour opening 45 minutes.

But a combination of Italy's determination and a defensive blunder from Andreas Bouchalakis in the second period allowed Jorginho to convert a penalty and substitute Bernardeschi wrapped the win up late on.

Italy generally dominated a largely forgettable first half in Rome, though their control of possession was not reflected in the number of chances forged, as Alexandros Paschalakis in the Greece goal was little more than a spectator.

While Gianluigi Donnarumma was by no means busy at the other end, his reflex save to palm away Dimitris Limnios' effort in the 12th minute was vital.

Italy then suffered the blow of losing Federico Chiesa to an apparent muscle injury just before the interval.

But the hosts' first attempt on target came from a cross courtesy of Chiesa's replacement, as Bernardeschi's delivery found Ciro Immobile and his header was tipped around the post by Paschalakis.

The goalkeeper was helpless just past the hour, however – Jorginho dispatching a penalty with typical composure after Bouchalakis blatantly blocked Lorenzo Insigne's shot with his arm.

Bernardeschi ended Greece's hopes of a late fightback, finding the bottom-left corner from distance with 12 minutes to go.

What does it mean? Italy back in the big-time

After missing out on a place at the 2018 World Cup, Italy were not going to accept failure in this qualification campaign, so they put their money where their mouth was and hired a reputable coach in Mancini.

While there was nothing vintage about the performance on Saturday and their group always looked like being simple, at least on this occasion they have met expectations by securing a place in next year's tournament and with three matches to spare.

 

Verratti adds a touch of class

In a match often lacking quality, Marco Verratti was a standout performer. Hassled and harried by Greece's dogged midfield, the Paris Saint-Germain star routinely played his way out of trouble with ease, even inside his own penalty area in the first period.

 

A day to forget for Bouchalakis

Until the bizarre decision to block a shot with his arm in the penalty area, Bouchalakis and his defensive colleagues had put up a decent fight. In that moment their chances disappeared, as they did not look much of a threat at the other end.

 

What's next?

Italy return to action on Tuesday away to Liechtenstein, while Greece host Bosnia-Herzegovina on the same day.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has told Moise Kean to "be more careful" after the striker was sent off in a European Under-21 Championship qualifier.

Kean was dismissed for pushing Republic of Ireland striker Troy Parrott in the chest. Tottenham player Parrott also saw red following the clash.

It is not the first disciplinary issue Kean has faced this year, the 19-year-old having been left out at this year's European Under-21 Championship finals by coach Luigi Di Biagio after repeated breaches of team rules.

Kean was then omitted from Mancini's senior Italy squad for this international break having struggled to make an impact in the Premier League for Everton, the club he joined from Juventus in August.

"I'm sorry for yesterday's expulsion," Mancini told reporters on Friday. "He was also unlucky. But he is always involved, he must be more careful."

Brescia teenager Sandro Tonali played in the same team as Kean in Dublin on Thursday, and the midfielder, uncapped at senior level, has been brought into Mancini's squad for Saturday's home game against Greece.

The Azzurri are closing in on qualification for Euro 2020 having recorded a perfect six wins out of six games in Group J, and while victory against John van 't Schip's side would be enough to secure a place at the finals, Mancini is taking nothing for granted.

"We have to think about qualifying, this match will not be easy," Mancini added. "I don't know how they will play, but we always want to have our footprint and we want to win.

"Qualification is certainly not a sure thing, we have a serious opponent tomorrow night, who we must beat.

"Now comes the Euros as it's the first competition we'll have to face. Then, certainly, we'll turn our attentions to the [2022] World Cup in Qatar."

Stefano Sensi will miss Italy's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Greece and Liechtenstein due to injury.

The midfielder is unavailable for international duty after he was forced off in the first half of Inter's 2-1 defeat to Juventus in Serie A on Sunday.

Sensi was included by Italy coach Roberto Mancini in his squad for the upcoming fixtures last week, but Italy confirmed on Monday the 24-year-old will now instead remain at his club to undergo treatment.

The Azzurri sit top of Group J with a 100 per cent record, recording six wins from six so far in qualifying.

Sensi was involved in the victories over Armenia and Finland in September, starting the 2-1 triumph against the latter, while he scored his first international goal in a 6-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein back in March.

However, he will not feature in the return fixture next Tuesday, with that game coming three days after Mancini's side host Greece at the Stadio Olimpico.

Nicolo Zaniolo has earned a recall to the Italy squad, but injury appears to have ended Daniele De Rossi's hopes of an incredible return.

Zaniolo broke into the senior Azzurri set-up last season after impressing for Roma following a move from Inter as part of the deal to take Radja Nainggolan to San Siro.

The 20-year-old earned two caps but was left out of Roberto Mancini's squad in September.

However, having made eight appearances in all competitions at club level this season, scoring once in the Europa League, Zaniolo is back in the fold for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Greece and Liechtenstein.

While a current Roma star is included, a former Giallorossi icon misses out, with De Rossi absent following reports he was set to return almost two years on from his international retirement.

The 36-year-old midfielder picked up a hamstring injury with club Boca Juniors last month and is not involved.

The only new face in the group is Napoli right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo, although he was involved in a training camp in April.

Forwards Moise Kean, Patrick Cutrone and Andrea Pinamonti are all in the under-21 squad.

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have six wins from six in Euro 2020 qualifying to sit top of Group J.

With third-placed Armenia nine points behind and only four matches to play, Mancini's men could secure their place at the finals in the coming international break.

 

Italy squad: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Pierluigi Gollini (Atalanta), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Danilo D'Ambrosio (Inter), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Armando Izzo (Torino), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Stephan El Shaarawy (Shanghai Shenhua), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli).

The quarter-final draw for the FIBA World Cup was completed on Monday with the United States to face France in perhaps the pick of the games.

Team USA defeated Brazil to send their opponents crashing out, with Czech Republic instead advancing having held Greece to only a narrow victory earlier in the day.

Australia edged France in Group L to avoid a last-eight meeting with defending champions USA, who will instead face the second-placed side.

Lithuania bowed out with a victory in the same pool, beating Dominican Republic 74-55.

In the classification round, Montenegro, New Zealand, Jordan and Germany achieved wins against Japan, Turkey, Senegal and Canada respectively.

New Zealand and Germany each finished top of their groups.
 

PAIN FOR GREECE AND GIANNIS

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo could not lead Greece to World Cup glory as he fouled out for the second time in the tournament in their 84-77 win over Czech Republic.

Only a 12-point margin of victory would have been enough to keep Greece's hopes of progression alive but they could not hold on after leading 65-53 in the fourth quarter.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother and Milwaukee Bucks team-mate, said: "Our first objective was to win, and then to win by 12. We paid for the game against Brazil in the first round.

"But this is basketball. Sometimes you are on top, sometimes you're on the other side."
 

USA DENY BRAZIL PROGRESSION

Czech Republic still had to wait on the final result of the day, where they needed USA to beat Brazil in order to join the American side in the next stage.

Their progression was sealed, dumping Brazil out, as Kemba Walker and Myles Turner starred with 16 points apiece in the United States' 89-73 success.

Walker also supplied five assists and Turner eight rebounds, despite the latter playing just 20 minutes and 41 seconds for Gregg Popovich's side in Shenzhen.
 

BOOMERS SCORE BIG TO BEAT FRANCE

It is Australia who will play Czech Republic next after booking a place on the opposite side of the draw to USA by handing France a narrow defeat.

A final scoreline of 100-98 represented the first time France have ever given up a century of points in a World Cup game, with Evan Fournier's 31 not enough to rescue a result.

This was the first match at the tournament with two players scoring at least 30 points, while Australia became the first to have three on 20 or more, as Patty Mills managed exactly 30, with Joe Ingles on 23 and Aron Baynes – who converted five of his six three-point attempts - on 21.

Team-mate Jock Landale said of Baynes: "He's huge. That's what he does for us. He's a stretched five, who shoots the ball really well. He is going to keep doing it for us and we are going to keep letting him shoot."

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out as Greece were eliminated from the FIBA World Cup despite an 84-77 win over Czech Republic.

Greece needed a 12-point margin of victory to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals, but their star man was unable to lead the way.

The Czechs led at half-time and, despite a strong third quarter from Greece, their hopes were dashed in the final reckoning as Antetokounmpo was forced out of the game after being pinged for a contentious charge.

The Milwaukee Bucks talisman had made consecutive double-doubles in his past two games, including against the United States, but he was not as impressive on Monday.

Antetokounmpo, who fouled out with five and half minutes remaining, ended with 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the 24-year-old and his team, who were 65-53 up when he came back into the game during the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Czech Republic needed the USA to beat Brazil to ensure they make the knockout phase.

Defending FIBA World Cup champions the United States advanced to the quarter-finals by defeating Greece, while Canada made history against Jordan.

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was unable to lead Greece to a shock victory over Team USA in Shenzhen, leaving them requiring a big win over the Czech Republic in their final second-round match if they are to have a chance of reaching the last eight.

Australia overcame the Dominican Republic 82-76 and France beat Lithuania 78-75 in a dramatic finale, meaning the two victors secured their progression and will battle it out for top spot in Group L on Monday.

The Czech Republic kept their hopes of reaching the last eight alive by defeating Brazil 93-71 – Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky producing a sensational all-round display with 20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

In the classification round, there were victories for Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Turkey.

 

GIANNIS FAILS TO GET GREECE FIRING

Antetokounmpo was expected to be key to Greece's hopes of pulling off an upset against the United States and he had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

However, he was -17 in his 27 minutes on the floor – the worst +/- rating of anyone on his team – and it was while he was on the bench that Greece closed the gap to 11 points with four minutes remaining.

Kemba Walker led USA with 15 points, while Donovan Mitchell contributed 10.

 

BOOMERS STILL BOOMING

Patty Mills posted 19 points and nine assists as Australia held off the Dominican Republic for their fourth straight win.

Jock Londale impressed with 13 points on five-of-six shooting, while Chris Goulding added 15 and Aron Baynes put up 10.

Baynes fouled out with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, but replacement Andrew Bogut stepped up and provided eight points, eight rebounds and six assists.

 

FRANCE THROUGH

Nando De Colo sunk a fadeaway jump shot with 15 seconds of the match remaining to put France three points clear of Lithuania, who saw Jonas Maciulis fail to make a buzzer-beating shot from beyond the arc.

De Colo had 21 points off the bench, while Evan Fournier scored 24 in a commanding display.

Rudy Gobert said: "It was like a final for us. We knew we had to win this game in order to qualify for the quarter-finals. We know that Australia is a tough team too, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are going to get some rest and get ready for Australia."

 

HISTORY FOR CANADA

Nick Nurse's side sank 24 three-pointers in their 126-71 triumph over Jordan, the most in a single FIBA World Cup game.

Canada shot at 58.7 per cent from the floor and combined for 37 assists, equalling the record set by Serbia in their victory over the Philippines in the first round.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was unable to inspire Greece to a victory over the United States, who reached the FIBA World Cup quarter-finals with a 69-53 win on Saturday.

Greec claimed an early lead, but it did not take long for Team USA to pull away and take control of the game by figuring out how to contain NBA MVP Antetokounmpo.

The Milwaukee Bucks star finished the first half four of eight from the field, while his team were held to 26 per cent shooting. Gregg Popovich's side entered half-time with a 39-25 advantage and came out even stronger in the second.

The USA have won all four of their matches in China, while Greece will need a big win over Czech Republic in their final second-round game if they are to have a chance of reaching the last eight.

Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell once again led the Americans, with the Boston Celtics guard contributing 15 points and the latter adding 10.

Jaylen Brown also made an impact, scoring eight points over the first 11 minutes to help Team USA build a 22-20 lead before they broke the game open.

Antetokounmpo was expected to be a big threat after playing relatively light minutes in the first stage, and while he scored 15 points with 13 rebounds he was -17 in his 27 minutes on the floor – the worst +/- rating of any Greece player.

Thanasis Skourtopoulos' team closed the gap to 11 points with just over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter while Antetokounmpo was on the bench, but they failed to make further inroads.

The USA take on Brazil on Monday in their final match of the second round.

Gregg Popovich's United States team survived an almighty fright in the FIBA World Cup as they claimed a 93-92 overtime victory over Turkey in Shanghai.

Turkey had a chance to hand USA their first preliminary round loss in the competition since 1998 and were one point up in the final 10 seconds.

However, they missed four free throws in the dying embers and Khris Middleton made no mistake with his pair of tries to spare USA's blushes and send them into the second round.

Elsewhere, Joe Ingles' statline of 17-10-9 ensured Australia made it two wins from two in a 81-68 victory over Senegal while Middleton's Milwaukee Bucks team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo's fouled out in Greece's 79-78 loss to Brazil.

USA SURVIVE UPSET SCARE

Even a depleted USA roster was expected to have few issues in the early stages of the tournament, but Turkey came close to pulling off a huge upset against the defending champions.

Popovich's team were five points up in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, yet a 7-0 run from Turkey meant the game went down to the wire. 

A foul on Jayson Tatum at the buzzer gave him three free throws, and USA would have won in regulation had he made them all - but he could only drain two.

Turkey had a five-point advantage in the additional period and twice had an opportunity to go three points up with nine seconds remaining only for Douglas Balbay and Cedi Osman to fluff their lines from the free-throw line.

Middleton kept his cool as USA survived a scare on the court, though Boston Celtics star Tatum appeared to pick up a worrying looking ankle injury at the end.

GIANNIS' GREECE GO DOWN

The NBA's reigning MVP Antetokounmpo had a day to forget as Greece suffered a narrow loss to Brazil that mean the South Americans booked their spot in the second round.

Antetokounmpo had fouled out by the time Greece tried to tie the game up late on and force overtime, but Kostas Sloukas could only make two of his three free-throws with two seconds remaining as Brazil claimed a one-point success.

Former Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors center Anderson Varejao led all scorers with 22 points while Antetokounmpo had just 13 in his 28 minutes on court.

Elsewhere in Group F, New Zealand beat Montenegro 93-83.

INGLES COMES CLOSE TO HISTORY AS BOOMERS WIN AGAIN

There has never been a triple-double in a FIBA World Cup but Ingles came close to a slice of history as Australia eased past Senegal.

Ingles was one assist away from a triple-double, contributing nine of their 28 assists as the Boomers warmed up for their clash with Lithuania, who joined them in the second round with a 92-69 triumph.

In Group G, France also moved to 2-0 with a 103-64 thrashing of Jordan, while Dominican Republic kept their unbeaten start intact by beating Germany 70-68.

The day's other game saw Czech Republic defeat Japan 89-76.

United States began their FIBA World Cup title defence with an 88-67 defeat of Czech Republic, while Australia earned a memorable win over Canada.

The defending champions were made to work before claiming a comfortable victory in Group E, where there was a win for Turkey over Japan.

New Zealand pushed Brazil close, but lost out in a 102-94 epic, with Giannis Antetokounmpo shining as Greece beat Montenegro.

France edged out Germany by four points and it was equally as close between the Dominican Republic and Jordan, although Lithuania thrashed Senegal 101-47.

USA UP AND RUNNING

USA were sluggish at times in their opener in Shanghai, but the world's best side ultimately had too much for the Czech Republic to cope with.

Chicago Bulls player Tomas Satoransky was bright for the Czechs, but USA had scoring options throughout the side – Donovan Mitchell, Harrison Barnes and Kemba Walker getting into double figures.

Gregg Popovich's side were disciplined in possession, making just seven turnovers, while Walker was the player of the match, adding four assists and a steal to his 13 points.

RECORD-BREAKING BOOMERS

Australia started their campaign by amassing more than100 points in a World Cup match for the first time since 1990 as the Boomers ran out 108-92 winners over Canada.

Joe Ingles ran the show for Australia, providing 10 assists – the most in a game by an Australian player since assists became part of the box score in 1994.

Matthew Dellavedova lead the way in terms of points, scoring a game-high 24 as Australia made a statement of intent in Group H.

However, the Boomers' win was not enough to earn them top spot, as Lithuania made light work of Senegal.

FINE MARGINS IN GROUP G

France and Germany's only previous World Cup encounter ended 75-73 and Sunday's meeting proved a similarly tight encounter.

It finished 78-74 to France – Evan Fournier starring for the winners with a 26-point haul.

Despite going 14-0 down, Germany fought back to keep within touching distance, and even though Fournier gave his country a 76-70 lead with 32.5 seconds remaining, there was still time for a grandstand finish, France just holding firm.

Elsewhere in Group G, the Dominican Republic overcame Jordan 80-76 in a thrilling contest in Shenzhen.

GIANNIS MAKES HIS MARK FOR GREECE

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo needed just 16 minutes to show his world-class quality as the NBA star turned on the style to help Greece beat Montenegro.

Antetokounmpo netted 10 points and clocked up eight rebounds in the 85-60 victory in Group F.

Brazil are second in the group, after coming out on top against New Zealand.

The Tall Blacks mounted a late charge following a third-quarter blitz from Brazil but could not muster enough to complete the comeback.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup gets under way in China on Saturday.

A total of 32 teams from four confederations will battle it out across eight host cities in the space of just over two weeks.

We take a look at five talking points ahead of what should be an enthralling competition.

 

A three-peat in the offing?

The United States have won the past two editions of the World Cup and are once again the favourites for glory. No country has ever won three straight titles.

However, Team USA are without a host of their leading NBA stars and are relying heavily on a young group.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said: "A lot of guys back in 2010; KD [Kevin Durant], Russ [Westbrook], Kevin Love, all those guys were young. They made a name for themselves and really propelled themselves for future success in their careers."

The competition could prove beneficial to the Boston Celtics, with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Brown getting some extra time on court with new arrival Kemba Walker.

Booming Boomers

Australia enjoyed a huge boost ahead of the World Cup by beating Team USA for the first time with a 98-94 triumph at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The experienced quartet of Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills will be key to their hopes of a deep run.

Mills said: "We're locked in focused on trying to create history for basketball within Australia and that's what it's all about. So, we're not satisfied, we've just got to keep working hard."

However, the Boomers lost their final warm-up match against Germany 74-64 and saw Andrew Bogut limp off in the fourth quarter.

More Nurse magic?

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Championship, Nick Nurse took the reins for Canada.

He got off to a winning start against Nigeria and went on to record victories over Australia and New Zealand.

But Canada also lost warm-up matches with Nigeria, Australia and Team USA, showing they have plenty of work to do if they are to pull off a shock in China.

A 'Greek Freak' Show

Greece's best performance came in 2006, when they finished second to Spain in Japan.

This time, though, they have a once-in-a-generation talent in NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 assists during the 2018-19 regular season.

Antetokounmpo will be integral to Greece's hopes, though he sat out their final warm-up against Venezuela due to a knee problem.

If he is fit and firing, Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly make a mark on the competition.

Understrength Spain

It looks like it will be difficult for Spain to win the title for a second time.

Head coach Sergio Scariolo has selected an experienced team that is headlined by Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull.

They would undoubtedly have had a better chance had Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic made themselves available, while Pau Gasol is absent due to injury.

Scariolo said: "The players that you have named [Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka], at least one of the two would have been picked if they had made themselves available for selection.

"Another like Pau for example, he would have killed to be with us but unfortunately he is unavailable through injury."

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece's final FIBA World Cup warm-up match against Venezuela on Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward is set to be his country's main man at the tournament in China after an outstanding season in the United States in which he was named MVP.

But Antetokounmpo was not available to face Venezuela after complaining of irritation in his knee and opted not to take the risk with the World Cup beginning on Saturday.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother, had been dealing with a foot problem but was included in the team.

Greece begin their World Cup campaign against Montenegro on Sunday, with further group stage games against Brazil and New Zealand following next week.

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez wished their MVP-winning Milwaukee Bucks team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo the best with Greece at the FIBA World Cup, just not against the United States.

Middleton and Lopez watched as Antetokounmpo dominated in the NBA last season after he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while helping the Bucks clinch in the number one seed and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks pair heaped praise on Antetokounmpo, even if they are set to be his rivals at the upcoming World Cup in China.

"There are just so many possessions, so many dunks, but the vision, the unselfishness that he has, it's just so impressive for a superstar of his talent," Lopez told reporters on Wednesday. "And his work ethic is just what amazes me the most, it’s really second to none."

"Every night he steps on that court, you know he's going to give it his all," Middleton added. "You know he's due for one of those big plays."

Middleton and Lopez will not be Antetokounmpo's team-mates at the World Cup, which gets underway in China on August 31.

Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, who have been drawn in Group F alongside New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro.

Reigning champions Team USA, meanwhile, will face Turkey, Czech Republic and Japan in Group E.

"We've spent hours in practice against each other and it will definitely be fun to get it in a real game," Middleton said. "That's my team-mate, my brother and wish him the best but hopefully not too good against us."

There is no guarantee Middleton will get a chance to match up with Antetokounmpo, but it is not out of the realm of possibility, either.

If both teams finish in the top two of their pools, they could get a chance to face off down the line.

It is something Lopez said USA are not planning for yet but admitted it would be a difficult task on defense, just like it was for every NBA team this past season.

"It would be a total team job," Lopez said. "All five guys have to be on the same page all doing our job."

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