After a short hiatus – too much work for the fibaeurope website – here another posting from the U20 European Championship where we are about to start the second day of the qualifying round. Spain and France are the only two undefeated teams left but things are still wide open in Greece. And now another contender has emerged with a late arrival.
The heat and humidity in Rhodes is pretty unbearable today, Tuesday, so hopes are high that the air conditioning in the gym will be working okay. At least there won’t be the nightmare Spanish fans with their ridiculously loud air horns. They are instead in Ialysos facing off with Greece – in one of three fine games in Group E.
Spain held off Italy and will only get better once Pablo Aguilar finally can play. The star center was in the gym in shoes but did not take part in warm-up drills and swapped the sneakers for sandles in the second half. Mamadou Samb has been playing very well and teaming him with Sergio De La Fuente and Aguilar would give Spain a mean front court.
France have been living on defense. And they will have to hit from long range to beat Russia, who will pack it in against Les Bleus. That means Edwin Jackson, Antoine Diot and Thomas Heurtel will have to be on target when the ball is thrown out from the post.
Italy and Latvia will also face off in Group E and neither team can afford a loss, which will essentially eliminate them from the quarters. Expect one team to finally earn a much-deserved victory after some good, but unrewarded play thus far.
In Group F, Lithuania suffered their first defeat at the hands of Serbia, who had looked more like thugs than talents. But they finally bagged a win against a team not fighting relegation and coach Slobodan Klipa’s men will run their system.
And the Balkan side faces Croatia, who finally saw the arrival of Mario Delas, who played at the U19 Worlds in New Zealand. He scored all eight of his points in the final 11 minutes and helped carry Croatia to a win over a tough Montenegro side. With Delas now on board, Croatia have entered the circle of contenders.
Ukraine looked better than many thought in the first round. But then they fell completely apart, losing by 49 against Turkey. Against Montenegro, we should see which Ukraine is the real Ukraine.
The other Group F encounter is also extremely important for both teams and promises to be a real battle as Serbia take on Turkey in a showdown of 1-2 teams looking up at three teams who are 2-1.