May The Best Defense Win

20.07.2008

The old adage goes "defense wins championsihips" and that should hold true in the final of the U20 European Championship for Women with undefeated Russia facing off with France - winners of six straight games.

Both teams reached Sunday's final in Pescara by playing tough-as-nails defense in their semi-final victories over Serbia and Spain, respectively.

Alexander Kovalev's Russians held Serbia to just three points in the first quarter and kept Sonja Petrovic scoreless for first 23 minutes in allowing just nine points from the Serbian star.  

Lucie Bouthors (France)
Lucie Bouthors stepped up to prove a key player for France in the semi-final
Abdou Ndiaye's French, meanwhile, shut down Spain's high-octane attack and had yet another player step up offensively with Lucie Bouthers leading the way with 15 points - two points more than she had totalled in the previous six games.

Both teams have become regulars in the semis with Russia winning three U20 titles (2000, 2004, 2006) and finishing runners-up once (2002) since the age group's start in 2000. And France have medalled in the past five tournaments - gold in 2005, silver in 2004 and bronze in 2002, 2006 and 2007.

France will face a tough challenge in stopping Russia's low post players Natalia Vieru and Olga Zhuzhgova, meaning Doriane Tahane and Marielle Amant will have to have another good showing for France to win.

The Russians must assume that every French player can be the one to hit the big shots as Ndiaye has seen five different players be top scorers.

Both coaches have deep benches to call upon as nine French players have averaged at least four points per game and nine Russians have averaged at least 3.8 points a contest.

Spain, Serbia showdown for bronze


Before the tournament, many expected Serbia and Spain to face off in the final Sunday of the U20 European Championship for Women. These teams, after all, were two of the most talented sides and they had battled last summer for the title with Spain coming out on top.

Serbia and Spain lived up to the expectations of playing against one another on the final game day - albeit in the bronze medal match.

Defending champions Spain were bounced in the semi-finals, unable to solve a hard-nosed France defence in losing 61-56. Anna Carbo scored 15 points in the first 12 minutes but only three points the rest of the way. Gaby Ocete tallied 19 points but did not get enough help from her team-mates, especially Jael Freixanet, who scored just one point as she battled foul trouble.

Jordi Fernandez's team will look to shake off their tears and salvage the bronze medal.

Jovica Antonic also has to build back up his Serbian team's spirits after they were beaten by a determined Russian defense, which held the 2007 runners-up to just three first quarter points en route to a 49-47 victory.

Look for Serbian star Sonja Petrovic to have extra motivation after being held scoreless for the first 23 points and scoring just nine points while also missing a lay-up with six seconds left, which would have tied the game.


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