Serbia Seek Key To Crack Spain's Code

16.07.2011

U20 Women Semi-Final Preview

12. Maja Vucurovic (Serbia)
Maja Vucurovic and Serbia will face the only unbeaten team Spain in their Semi-Final

Hosts Serbia are hoping Spain's narrow win over Ukraine in the quarter-finals of the U20 European Championship Women has revealed the chinks in their armour that can make the difference in the semis.

Spain arrived in Novi Sad having dominated the preliminary and qualifying rounds in Zrenjanin, where they never allowed more than 35 points and won every game by 20 points or more.

But they were put to the test by Ukraine in the quarter-finals, needed to close on a 12-0 run - after Ukraine star Alina Iagupova had fouled out - to take a 67-57 victory.

Serbia did not have an easy time of it in their semi-final either, edging Italy 60-55, but after watching Spain struggle earlier in the evening, Serbia coach Milkan Mrdja is looking to their semi-final meeting with confidence.

"One thing about Spain is they have come here having not played tough opponents yet because the group here in Novi Sad was much better," Mrdja said. "Against Ukraine, they didn't have the right mindset, they didn't have good solutions for what they saw from Ukraine and needed long time-outs in the game to find them."

Spain coach Lucas Mondela, perhaps unsurprisingly, disagrees.

He admitted that Ukraine had caused his team huge problems, but said that it was down to Ukraine's own unique style, dominated by the combined forces of Iagupova and Olesia Malashenko, that upset his team's rhythm.

"Ukraine's style is not very good for us - their post players can play inside and outside and it made it hard for us," he said.

"But by the second half we solved the problem and the natural talent of our team came through on offense."

He repeatedly pointed to the second-half split - 45-28 in his team's favour - to make his point.

"Serbia have a more usual style of offense," he added. "It is suited better to our defense."

Despite seeing his team struggle for the first time, Mondelo was unconcerned, adamant it was an isolated set of circumstances.

"All the teams at this tournament will have a bad game," he said. "This is our bad game - we hope! But we can come away with more confidence. We scored 45 points in the second half, and this is very good for us."

Whether or not he is right about Spain, Serbia coach Mrdja knows there are also things about this own team he needs to sort out.

"Against Italy, we didn't play well," he said. "The main problems were in defense, so if we want to win we have to fix that."


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