Spain vs Serbia
The first quarter-final match-up sees a young and confident Serbian team go up against an experienced Spain side in a re-match of the 2009 Eurobasket final.
Serbia’s passage in 2013 has been well earned. They qualified through the Eurobasket qualifiers last summer. And they made it through the supposed “group of death” in Jesenice without a few star names, namely Milos Teodosic. But so far Serbia have played some great team basketball at times and on their day, can beat anybody.
CSKA Moscow big man Nenad Krstic leads the side with 16.7 points a game and is the veteran that coach Dusan Ivkovic has wanted throughout this tournament. The whole team has performed brilliantly though, and if on form could be looking at a podium finish.
Still the favourites for a three-peat, Spain have made the quarter-finals without really playing at their very best.
“We’re okay, we’re playing good,” Spain’s Xavier Rey said. “We lost [three] games but I think we’re learning about that,”
Regardless, Spain are here, as expected. Players like Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez and Marc Gasol provide the majority of the scoring for the Spanish while Ricky Rubio is the team’s provider.
Verdict: Serbia have been inconsistent as of late. A win is then followed by a loss, and they need to play above their level to hang with Spain. As for the Eurobasket holders, they have coasted through to this stage, and as they prepare for Serbia, you can’t help but think this is the stage where they move up a gear and take the game to the inexperienced Serbians. I see nothing but a Spain win here.
Slovenia vs France
Despite being the host nation, Slovenia will go into this game as underdogs against Tony Parker and France.
The fact that the hosts are at this stage is the main thing. They have got to job done when they’ve needed to – but at times – they have been complacent. For the majority of their wins against Spain in Celje and Greece, they have played their best basketball in this tournament bar none.
Otherwise, Slovenia have been scrappy, defensively lazy at times and this needs to stop if they are to progress any further. To stop France doesn’t necessarily mean stop Tony Parker. If the Slovenians can hold off France’s forwards along with Alexis Ajinca, they have a chance.
With this team they have though, Slovenia can beat anyone – and when the hosts are on form. With a vocal and jumping crowd, they’re unstoppable.
Since losing their opener to Germany, France sparked themselves back into life by beating Great Britain, en route to a 4-1 record in the group stages. France though have been literally coating their way through to the quarter-finals. They started with a 2-0 record, lost their opener to Lithuania and despite beating Latvia, they were woeful against Serbia – but at that point, they were already through.
“We want to go there (to the FIBA Basketball World Cup),” big man Alexis Ajinca admits.
“We want to go there and we want to go there as winners (of Eurobasket) too. It’s where we see ourselves – competing with the best teams in the world so it’s definitely our goal. We want to reach the World Cup, but we want to go to Spain as winners of Eurobasket.”
Verdict: This, for me is the tie of the round, and the winner of this game will be in the final. Slovenia will need to do something they haven’t done in this entire tournament and that’s play for 40 minutes against a French side, who have been coasting through so far. If Tony Parker is on form, Nando De Colo contributes and Alexis Ajinca can be allowed to dominate inside, this will be France’s night. Slovenia need contributions from both Dragic brothers, solid play off the bench from Jaka Lakovic to at least contain the threat of Parker and especially Mirza Begic, who needs to be patient with Ajinca and not get himself into foul trouble. Unfortunately for the hosts though, France are too deep and too talented overall. Slovenia needs 40 minutes of basketball; I don’t think they’re capable of it. France.