Basketball greats Argentina and the U.S. will play Friday at 11:15am local time (10:15am ET/14:15 GMT). The winner will play for the gold medal Aug. 24 at 3:30pm local time (2:30pm ET/19:30 GMT) while the loser will play for the bronze medal at 1pm the same day.
The last time Argentina and the U.S. clashed for an Olympic medal was in Athens in 2004, when Argentina clobbered the Dream Team. Before that, in 2002 at the World Championship in Indiana, Argentina, the so-called Dream Team Killers, embarrassed the U.S. on its home turf. Since then the teams have faced off three times, with the U.S. winning each time.
Despite impressive talent, admirable humility and incredible heart, the Argentine team is not that deep this time around. The Argentines are running a bit thin, with key players out, forcing them to rotate through half a dozen tried and true players.
Look for the U.S., led by Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, to play aggressively, trying to force Argentina into committing unnecessary fouls. Argentine legend Manuel Ginobili and star teammate Luis Scola will have to play virtually perfect ball for Argentina pull off another upset against a U.S. team seeking redemption from its Athens defeat.
Ginobili described this year’s U.S squad as “by far the best team” in the Olympics. “We know we’ll have to play a perfect game,” he was quoted as saying. “And that’s probably not enough. They’ll have to play badly.”
Bryant, who speaks Spanish and Italian and is self-described as a huge fan of soccer and Lionel Messi, has described Argentina “as the best team” out there. In addition to his quest for redemption for the U.S. team, he has another incentive to win: He turns 30 on Aug. 23.