MADRID (Reuters) - Huge upsets lit up the basketball World Cup on Wednesday as France beat hosts Spain 65-52 while Serbia thumped Brazil 84-56 to set up an intriguing semi-final clash.
Holders the United States and Lithuania will meet in the first semi in Barcelona on Thursday while the Serbs and the French will lock horns in Madrid on Friday.
Fancied to stroll into an anticipated title bout with the Americans, the Spaniards were stunned by a French side missing several top players including four-time NBA champion Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs.
Defying a deafening roar from the passionate home fans, France led from start to finish in a physical encounter which threatened to boil over in the third quarter when a scuffle broke out among rival players on the court.
The French pulled away in a tense finish as forward Boris Diaw led the charge with 15 points and five rebounds and was aided by Thomas Heurtel, who racked up 13 and four assists.
“It was a very bad match, we weren’t in the game at any point in time and that’s why we are out,” Spain playmaker Sergio Rodriguez told Cadena Ser radio.
“We are very frustrated, we all wanted to go to Sunday’s final and in my six years with the national team this is the biggest blow I have suffered.
“We need to analyze what we did wrong and try to go forward,” he said.
A resurgent Serbia, who squeezed through the preliminary group stage, produced a second successive upset in the knockout rounds and brushed aside the Brazilians after they eliminated Greece in the round of 16.
Led by majestic playmaker Milos Teodosic, the game’s top scorer with 23 points and four assists, the Serbs never looked back after they engineered a 21-2 run late in the first half and early in the second.
A more athletic Brazilian team was confined to just 22 field goals from 65 attempts by an ironclad Serbian defense which forced their rivals to take a series of difficult long-range shots.
“We dreamed of reaching the last four before the tournament to make our fans happy because basketball is more than just a game in Serbia,” the Balkan country’s coach Aleksandar Djordjevic told a news conference.
“The passion that we have for the game as a nation means that players have to leave it all out there on the court in every game and this is how we will head into the next challenge.
“I rarely single out individuals but Teodosic’s talent and vision paved the way this afternoon,” added Djordjevic, a former trophy-laden point guard who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1998 World Cup title.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; additional reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Pritha Sarkar