By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
The Czech Republic showed off their title credentials in their narrow win against Belgium on Tuesday, a result which allowed them to finish top of Group E.
The pressure will be on the defending champions when they take on Belarus in Thursday's quarterfinal in Chieti.
|Jan Bobrovsky has plenty of experience in big games. |
Belarus have been the surprising team in the 2007 EuroBasket Women so far and they will be full of confidence having knocked host Italy out of contention to reach the last eight for the first time in their history.
Last time out: Czech Republic edged Belgium 72-70 while Belarus thrashed Italy 66-51.
Key stat: Czech Republic outrebounded Belgium 44-32. Belarus were 13 of 14 (92.9%) from the charity stripe against Italy.
Key Match-up: Belarus coach Anatoli Buyalski v Czech boss Jan Bobrovsky. Buyalski's game plan was perfect against Italy and his players on both offense and defense could not have executed it any better. Against Italy, the Belarus players always looked to make the extra pass to get the ball inside to Yelena Leuchanka and Anastasiya Veremeenko, and it paid dividends in the second quarter when they scored 14 of their team’s 19 points.
Bobrovsky led the Czechs to the title two years ago but Thursday's clash will offer him an interesting challenge.
X-Factor: Hana Machova came into this tournament not fully fit because of injuries but her experience has proved vital for the Czech Republic, especially in the last two games against Lithuania and Belgium. Machova converted a three-point play and hit a jumper to guide her team to victory against the Belgians.
Speaking out: Belarus' Natalia Marchanka: "We need to improve on certain aspects of our game, we made some mistakes on defense against Italy. But we will be ready to play in 24 hours against the Czech Republic."