They were 24 teams when the Eurobasket started the 31st of August and now two weeks later 8 teams are left. The 8 teams were already decided earlier tonight when Slovenia beat our neighbour Finland in a tight and good game (big credits for Finland after a great tournament). From Group F together with Slovenia the trio Russia, F.Y.R. of Macedonia and Greece already clinched the top four spots. In group E, last round yesterday, Spain got the 1st place followed by France, Lithuania and Serbia.
The last game tonight between Russia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia was a well-played game I must say. F.Y.R.O.M had the best start (8-0) and Russia had to fight to get back in the game. Half-way through the first quarter they were back, 11-11. Russia was up 3 points at half-time and the defense of Russia was the key so far. They forced F.Y.R.O.M to at least three 24-seconds violations. An interesting thing in Russias defense is that they force the post-player to the middle (not baseline as many teams do) and they double from the middle. This may lead to quick passes out from the post and open shots, but Russia handles the rotations well and they don’t give up so many open shots. But I must give credit to F.Y.R.O.M – they really play well, they move the ball, and share it with extra-passes. A lot of good things happen when McCalebb (16 points) attacks the basket. He can really break down a defense with his quickness and ball skills. He also had a few beautiful splits of Pick and Rolls. In Russia Alexei Shved had a great game (in the picture to the right) with 16 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds, that kid got game! Anyway, the score was really close all the way to the end. Russia was trailing with one in the last seconds, 60-61, and F.Y.R.O.M used their team fouls to cut down the time……. but Monia got the ball and shot on the buzzer to nail a 3p of the glass. Game Over!
This means the following quartefinals:
- Spain vs Slovenia (14/9)
- F.Y.R of Macedonia vs Lithuania (14/9)
- France vs Greece (15/9)
- Russia vs Serbia (15/9)
All 8 teams above have done a great job reaching the quarterfinals, but now is when the real fun starts! The top two teams don’t only fight for the gold medal – they secore a spot in the London Olympic Games next summer. The teams 3-6 will get a ticket to the Olympic Qualifying round which means that there is a lot at stake when we enter the last part of Eurobasket 2011.
In the first game I believe Spain is just much deeper and stronger than Slovenia. Spain is a candidate for the gold medal – Slovenia is not – they have to fight for the 5-6 spot and they have to focus on the 2013 Eurobasket in Slovenia.
In the second game Lithuania will have their hands full with F.Y.R.O.M. But I think the home-team with a packed Kaunas Arena just can’t loose this game. Lithuania will go through!
The third game is tougher. France has played excellent basketball but are they mentally tough enough? I don’t know. Greece has showed that they can play, they are tough. I still think that the atletisism of France and the depth of the team will keep them on top, but it will be a close game!
I think the last game will be really physical. Two teams that don’t build their game on quickness but on strength and smart basketball. Russias defense is really solid and Serbia has so far been very up and down. In this game I trust my gut feeling, there is just something I really like in this Russian team, and I have already predicted that they are the dark-horse in the fight for medals, so I must just say they will win this game!
To sum it up, I think Spain, Lithuania, France and Russia will be the winners of these four quarterfinals and the four teams that will fight for the medals. If I’m right or wrong the future will tell, but that’s my guess.
Anyone who thinks something else? What do YOU say – who will win these four games?