Manila, Sep 9: Efforts to maintain national team's continuity paid off as Germany moved into its first ever World Cup final, said Germany head coach Gordon Herbert.
Germany emerged as the surprise winner in Friday's semifinal where they stunned the United States 113-111, advancing to their first-ever FIBA World Cup final.
Germany had hit a low point since former NBA champion and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki retired from the national side in 2016. They missed out on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, followed by a World Cup setback three years later when they finished 18th.
However, they rose from the ashes as they moved into the last eight at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, before winning the bronze medal in EuroBasket last year. Their momentum are more evident in the ongoing 2023 World Cup as they have already secured a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
"Our expectations in this World Cup are two things, firstly we want to qualify for the Olympics, and the other target is to stand on the podium to win a medal," Herbert told Xinhua before the semifinals.
Herbert, who took over Germany two years ago, revealed the secrets behind their success: "I just started two years ago, and the first major competition we had was the Eurobasket. When I came in, I wanted three commitments from our players, Eurobasket, World Cup and Olympics."
"I felt that with any national team you have to have some continuity, you have to build a base, because you only have a short period of time together in the summer. We built a base last summer, and I think right now we're showing the benefits of what we did last summer," he disclosed.
As a globe-trotting manager, Herbert thought the closing gap between the U.S. and Europe is a good thing for the world basketball.
"I think the European basketball has made huge strides over the last 20 years. I can even say that the three best players in the World or NBA are Europeans. Yes, the gap is definitely close, which is great for basketball. As this World Cup coming in, I thought any one of 10 or 12 teams could be in the final four, so that's how close it is," the Canadian noted.
"When it comes to the league, I think after NBA, the EuroLeague is the next best league in the world, as every game is competitive and gets great fan support. Then you have the EuroCup and Champions League, they are the top three leagues in Europe, where the quality of basketball, in my opinion is excellent," he added.
German basketball is waiting for its next superstar after Nowitzki, and to Herbert, Franz Wagner has the potentials to become the next trump card as the Orlando Magic player has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
"I think Franz is going to be the next German star. Franz is a little bit different from Dirk, as he's not a power forward. He's more of a shooting guard or a small forward, but the kid has an outstanding future," Herbert explained. "For me, Franz is one of the best players in FIBA basketball already, just an outstanding young person also," he said.