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Argentina's Luis Scola has his shot blocked by Serbia's Nenad Krstic (L) during their FIBA World Championship game in Kayseri September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic


The World Championship first knockout round is poised to produce a pair of classics after Serbia beat Argentina 84-82 in an enthralling Group A match on Thursday to set up a meeting with Balkan neighbours Croatia.

There will also be no love lost when the Argentines clash in the last 16 with traditional rivals Brazil, who finished ahead of the Croats in Group B after beating them 92-74.

The United States made it five wins in a row in the same group with a 92-57 drubbing of Tunisia and should have an equally straightforward task against Angola.

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Serbia forward Dusko Savanovic was the team's trump card against Argentina, coming off the bench to score 19 points including a crucial three-pointer with 18 seconds left.

Playmaker Milos Teodosic added 16 and four assists and captain Nenad Krstic had 18 and eight rebounds, the trio doing enough to outmuscle Argentina's unstoppable centre Luis Scola who finished with a game-high 32 points and seven rebounds.

"We have beaten one of the world's top teams and this victory has given us a tremendous confidence boost ahead of the knockout rounds," Savanovic said.

Croatia, devoid of a podium finish since winning the 1995 European Championship bronze medal, were swept aside by a fast-flowing Brazilian team.

Marcelo Machado led the winners with 18 points and fellow guard Leandro Barbosa added 17 as the Brazilians nailed an impressive tally of 10 three-pointers from 19 attempts.

Holders Spain take on Greece after 19 points apiece from centre Fran Vasquez and guard Rudy Fernandez steered them to an 89-67 rout of Canada while hosts Turkey, 87-40 winners over China, play France for a berth in the quarter-finals.

Despite their drubbing, the Chinese squeezed into the last 16 on a superior three-way points differential after Ivory Coast beat Puerto Rico 88-79, leaving all three sides on one win and four defeats in Group C.

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Tournament favourites the U.S. are looking for their first World Championship gold medal since 1994 and although they cruised through the preliminary stage, their coach Mike Krzyzewski was determined to root out any complacency.

"A coach would tell you there is slipping up when you have a lot of games and we have to take care of slipping up, meaning that we have to be ready for Angola because it's one and done and if you don't win you can't win the tournament," he said.

"A great runner might come in second or third in qualifying because he wants to have his best time in a final race and in coaching the U.S. team I sometimes feel like it's the Tour de France; you are expected to win every stage."

Russia beat Greece 73-69 on the back of 18 points by centre Timofey Mozgov and their reward is a meeting with underdogs New Zealand, who stunned France 82-70 thanks to 25 points from outstanding guard Kirk Penney.

Slovenia, aiming for their first medal in any major event, beat Iran 65-60 to set up an intriguing clash with Australia, whose guard Derrick Mills led them to a 76-55 victory over Angola with 11 points, three rebounds and as many assists.

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Dark horses Lithuania, missing several regulars through injury, finished top of Group D with five wins out of five after beating Lebanon 84-66 and will be strong favourites against China to advance into the last eight.

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