Croatia beat Israel 86-79, which resisted much harder than anyone would think, and will now face Greece for the Group's leadership.
Croatia was the team to start the game better and took a quick 11-4 lead. Israel who started with Kozikaro at the PF position instead of their big star Eliyahu faced a lot of problems in rebounding and Croatia took advantage. With the score being 42-37 at the half time, Croatia had scored 20 points from second chances, offensive rebounds that is.
After the 15th minute and throughout the game the Israeli fighting spirit made its appearance again and the Israeli internationals did not let the game go down that easy. With Eliyahu and Mekel showing the way Israel tied the game at 59-59 and then proceeded to take the lead for the first time 69-67.
But eventually Croatia, mainly based on their experience and deep bench, retook charge of the game and beat Israel 86-79 by converting the free throws they earned when Israel started tacticl fouling in the last stage of the game.
Croatia 86-79 Israel
Quotes from the game:
Nicola Vujcic, Croatia: "We won, but I hope it was our worst match in this Eurobasket. Today we couldn't stop Eliyahu, we have to think this game over, especially if we want to win the whole tournament. Today's victory cannot calm us – we have to play better and better".
Jamin Repesa, Croatia Coach: "I'm happy with how we played. We were good on defense as well in offense, had many rebound and shot well from three. Everything is going to be much better if we correct some mistakes".
Yaniv Green, Israel: "It was an equal game. At the beginning Croatia had some advantage, but in the second half we caught them. The key was the last 2-3 minutes when we made several bad decisions."
Zvi Sherf, Israel Coach: "Both teams were well prepared for this opening game. We fought, but there were several things that we didn't succeed in- for example aggressive rebounds, we also didn't stop Popovic from the perimeter. We lost a game, but tomorrow is a new day."