2013 09 22. Lithuania celebrates as its national basketball team won a silver medal in European Basketball Championships. While they were defeated by France (66-80) in the gold medal game this is still a great achievement for a 3 million-strong nation.
While Lithuanians are regular guests at every major basketball tournament the last time they played in Eurobasket final game was 10 years ago (2003) when they achieved gold. Decennial of the event has been recently commemorated by a festival game where the golden Lithuanian team of 2003 (most of them already past their careers) faced foreign European players of the era.
Unlike in 2003 the street joy will probably not last multiple days this year. But in Vilnius downtown, a foreigner could not easily tell that Lithuanians lost the final game. Hundreds of fans are shouting, honking, waving flags, greeting each other and celebrating despite the rain. Tomorrow the Rotušės square will likely be full for a national team welcome back ceremony.
As usual, basketball victories are the main power to unite Lithuania and make it shed its introverted appearance. They are also the nation's prime ambassador abroad, making the name "Lithuania" well known in every nation where the world's 2nd team sport is popular.
On their route to silver Lithuanians defeated Macedonia, Latvia, Montenegro, France, Belgium, Ukraine and Italy and lost to Serbia, Bosnia an France. Power forward Linas Kleiza made it to the symbolic top 5 of the championship. The second place in Eurobasket also guarantees participation in the FIBA World Cup 2014 in Spain so Lithuanians will not be left without international basketball as their beloved team will try to repeat or improve their achievements of 2010 when it turned out third.