Latvia, Russia For Last Ticket To Semis

18.06.2009

By Jeff Taylor

Latvia have never beaten Russia in an official competition.

There is no better time than the present, then,  for the Baltic side to break their duck with the stakes incredibly high, and Arena Riga packes to the gils.

The side that wins Thursday's showdown will not only move to within a single victory of a medal at the EuroBasket Women.

The winners will also qualify for next year's FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic and the EuroBasket Women in Poland in 2011.

If defending champions Russia are going to win, their coach believes limiting the contributions of Latvia's scoring machine Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is essential.

"Jekabsone is the leader of the team and we must guard her," Russia boss Valeriy Tikhonenko said.

"If we win, we can play for medals and that is what we will do."

Latvia have enjoyed a home-court advantage at the EuroBasket but haven't capitalized. Ainars Zvirgzdins team go into the Russia game on the back of consecutive defeats to Slovakia and Spain.

Last Time Out: Russia trailed for much of the game but edged Latvia 62-57 in their Olympic encounter in Beijing last year.

Stats:  In Russia's only defeat at the EuroBasket Women to France, a 72-66 setback on Tuesday night, they failed to score in a seven-minute stretch of the third quarter.

Key Match-Up: Dita Krumberga v Svetlana Abrosimova. Jekabsone-Zogota has scored less than 20 points (18 v Spain) just once at the EuroBasket Women, so that clearly hasn't been enough for Latvia to get into the win column. They need someone else in the backcourt to step up and provide some offense against the Russians. Krumberga is a strong candidate, though she is likely to encounter strong defender Abrosimova who plays her best in the big games.

X-Factor: The Riga Arena crowd.

Sounding-Off: "They are hosting this tournament, playing on their own court. Secondly, there will be a big crowd behind them and that is very important for the home team" - Russia coach Valeriy Tikhonenko.


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