MANILA - A first-time winner will be crowned on Sunday when Serbia and Germany lock horns in the first all-European final at the FIBA World Cup since 2006.
The surprise elimination of holders Spain and the United States, who between them had won the last four titles, has set up an unexpected finale between the two teams.
Germany's shock semi-final win over the U.S., who have won the tournament a record five-times, has set up a showpiece match between two teams who rely on outstanding team work rather than stand out individuals.
"It's gonna be really, really difficult and it's gonna be a real war," Nikola Milutinov, Serbia's top rebounder and second-leading scorer, told reporters on Friday.
Reaching the final allowed Serbia and Germany to exorcise forgettable 2019 campaigns. Serbia were knocked out in the quarter-finals, while Germany finished a lowly 18th.
"It is great to see two teams that have earned their way," Spain's Pau Gasol, the World Cup global ambassador, said in a talk show on Saturday. "We expect a highly competitive game."
Germany's previous best showing was a third place finish in 2002, while Serbia came off second best to the Americans in the 2014 final.
"Our confidence is good, our team chemistry each right, we fight for each other, given 100% every time and we never give up," Germany's Andreas Obst, the hero of the semi-final win over the U.S., told Reuters.
The Germans have won three of their five tussles against Serbia, including their last two meetings.
Serbian players believe they have silenced a lot of their critics with their results at the tournament.
"Nobody believed (in us) but we don't care... We just had fun with each other, it's a great group of guys, great chemistry," Serbia's Filip Petrusev, who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, told reporters after their semi-final win over Canada.
Serbia is missing the services of two-time NBA most valuable player Nikola Jokic, who opted to rest after a gruelling run to his first NBA title.
Also missing is power forward Borisa Simanic, who had surgery in Manila to remove a kidney after taking a blow to his midsection against South Sudan during a preliminary game. REUTERS