By Milan Lazarevic
Many things are clear now. In Group B everything is over, and we know names of 4 teams who are qualified for quarter-final duels. Simply, Ukraine totally disappointed here after winning in Dallas, and Belarus was a solid team without enough quality, but with one solid Verameyenka.
In Group A Russia, Israel are already qualified, but 4 other teams Czech Republic, Latvia, Spain and Croatia will fight till the last moment. Russia and Greece showed best quality, but don?t forget teams like Israel or Lithuania.
1) Russia 4-0
2) Israel 3-1
3) Latvia 2-2
4) Spain 1-3
5) Croatia 1-3
6) Czech Rep. 1-3
CROATIA ? RUSSIA 54:86 ( 13-20, 12-25, 11-17, 18-24 )
This was demonstration of force by Russian team. People call them here:? Punishment expedition?. Simply, they showed biggest quality till know, technically and physically they are strongest and this result is not surprise. Yesterday, Croatia was without any chance from first minute. Russian team uses 10 players in rotation. We can see such thing only in Serbian team; other teams have 7 players for rotation, some just 6.
In that situation, it is not strange when we don?t need after their matches to mention some players specially. They play for a team, and that is the most efficiency for results.
Last night Vialtsev was the best with 21 pts, 6 steals and 4 assists. Other players didn?t score over 10 points, but they didn?t need to. They were solid form the line 6.25: 22/11. Routine win for Russia.
At the other side Croatia continued with bad performances. They played yesterday destructive basketball, with lot of improvisations. Curiosity is that they were shooting for 3: 21-2?! Pasalic was again only solid player in their team with 21 pts (for 3: 8-1) and 7 rebounds; Banic scored 13 pts but made 7 turnovers. Difficult moment for them. They simply must win in last match against Israel tomorrow, but that will be very difficult if we know how good they were till now.
LATVIA ? SPAIN 79:72 ( 15-14, 25-14, 18-20, 21-24 )
Latvia showed once more how huge potential they have. In any match till now they were not in minor position, and yesterday Spain had chance to learn something. In last few years, it is obvious prosperity of Latvian basketball on all levels. They already have several top class players on senior level and players like Berzins and Jahovics are bright future. But yesterday they showed that they have also Metra. This young man scored 22 points (for 3: 9-6). Jahovics helped him with 9 pts and 11 rebounds. I must say that Latvia is not sure for quarter finale yet, but they showed biggest quality in comparing with teams which they are fighting with.
Spain didn?t learn anything from previous duels. Also, they didn?t have enough luck. On 69:66 for Latvia, Stalbergs scored for 3 from the board and that was it. You know people say: ?Luck follows brave people?.
Spain repeated very bad performance. It is question how much games they can lose in a row. They already lost 3, so statistically it will be hard to expect new losing today when everything will be decided. Marc Gasol reminded us yesterday on his performance from first duel and scored 28 pts with 12 rebounds. Impressive score from this young man, but he didn?t have help from other team players. Sada is the only who was fighting with him. But unfortunately that is not enough for quarter-finale. They will have one chance more today against Russia, but?
ISRAEL ? CZECH REPUBLIC 78:68 ( 17-12, 19-15, 17-20, 25-21 )
This match was very important for both sides. Czech team didn?t show some impressive quality till now, but as home team they can win against anyone. But, in this duel Israel simply had more quality. Percussive duo Limonad-Halperin had personal show once again last night and simply demolished all hopes of home side.
With this win they assured quarter-final match, but they will have very hard job in that duel, that is sure.
Crucial moment was in 3rd period when Israel made 9:0 series for 51:34. Steffel (25 pts, 7 rebounds) was only solid player in Czech squad, he tried, Czech made 13:0 series, but too late. Everytime when Czech team was close, Halperin (16 pts, 7 rebounds) and Limonad (27 pts, 6 assists) took the ball and solve all rebuses.
Czech team will have hard task tomorrow against Latvia, but Latvia in that duel don?t have any other choice but winning, so match will be more then interesting.
1) Greece 4-0
2) Lithuania 3-1
3) Serbia & Mont. 3-1
4) Slovenia 2-2
5) Ukraine 0-4
6) Belarus 0-4
SERBIA & MONTENEGRO ? BELARUS 76:62 ( 29-21, 11-12, 16-15, 20-14 )
Belarus is not so weak team as their results try to tell. They fought brave yesterday even they were probably without so many motives. Vererameyenka was on his level from previous duels with 17 pts and 15 rebounds ? simply unstoppable.
But, Serbian team waited him to get tired, and then ended this match very calm. Koljevic was leader again with 18 pts, and Perovic added 11.
Last round will be very interesting because I doubt that some teams want to meet with Russia in quarter finale. Also, Israel in not naive opponent at all, so second place will be final goal for Serbian team. Because of that and many other reasons match against Slovenia will be crucial one.
SLOVENIA ? LITHUANIA 65:69 ( 19-23, 23-14, 13-16, 10-16 )
In huge derby Lithuania won after dramatic ending. They are still in the race for fist position with Greece or for the second with Serbian team, although Slovenia is not without chances to reach second position.
Slovenia was better team during all match, they were leading all the time and it is simply unbelievable on which way they lost. They made terrible mistakes in finish and let Lithuania to score last 6 points on the match. Minute ago result was already 65:69, but Jankunas showed once again that he is probably best player on this tournament. This young man was intransitive in defense, and in offense unstoppable with 20 pts and 16 rebounds (only one miss from the game for 36 minutes).
Slovenia had once again problem with fact that 5 players simply don?t play. 5 players didn?t score any point. You can not win against Lithuania on that way.
Slovenia is good team, but if they lose today against Serbia they will play against Russia in quarter-finale duel, and that will be probably the end of the competition for them? but who knows?
UKRAINE ? GREECE 82:91 ( 25-22, 18-20, 14-20, 25-29 )
This was the best performance till now for Ukraine, but too late. Simply, if they played on this level before they could be on much better position, but that is not important in this moment.
It is important that Greece simply can not lose here. They have too many good players for this competition and everyone expect their match with Russia when they will decide among themselves who is better. But before that they must win against Lithuania today, and that will not be an easy task at all. If they lose they can meet with Russia in semi-final match and that is not something they want.
Vasileiadis was the best again with 32 pts, with huge help of Vasilopoulos who scored 22 pts and collected 8 rebounds.
In Ukraine squad Gorbenko was better then others with 20 pts.