By Simon Wilkinson
Having secured their berths for next year's World Championship, both France and Croatia will look to give their less heralded players a chance to shine in the 5th-6th place game at EuroBasket 2009 on Sunday.
The French booked their place in Turkey for next summer after overcoming a 19-point first half deficit to beat none other than the Turks themselves, 80-68.
Tony Parker had his best outing of the competition, going for 28 points and dishing out 10 assists just two days after having his worst game, with just six points in the quarter-final defeat against Spain.
Trailing 43-32 at the break, France outscored Turkey 48-25 in the second half and really gave new meaning to the saying ‘a game of two halves'.
After committing 12 turnovers over the first two quarters and trailing 33-14 at one point, Vincent Collet's side looked like a completely different team as they used a 21-9 spurt in the third period to edge in front 53-52 courtesy of Parker's banked shot.
They ran off 17 unanswered points in a stretch from the end of the third quarter to the middle part of the final frame to go up 76-61 and put the game out of Turkey's reach.
Meanwhile, Croatia also used a strong run to erase a double-digit deficit and see off Russia 76-69.
Down 45-35 early in the third quarter, they scored 18 of the next 20 points to go up 53-47 on Kresimir Loncar's bucket with 3:27 to go in the period.
The Croats held on to the lead for much of the rest of the way but the Russians were breathing down their necks until Roko-Leni Ukic buried a three-pointer for a 73-67 lead with just over a minute left to play and David Blatt's men could not get any closer than four.
Two players who are most likely not to feature at all in today's game will be Boris Diaw and Ukic. Diaw sprained his ankle in the third quarter while Ukic strained his groin.
Head to head: France evened the series at 3-3 with their 87-79 win in the Qualifying Round last Sunday. At EuroBasket 2007, the two teams crossed paths in the 5th-8th classification games and the Croats won on that occasion, 86-69, to then go on and take sixth place. The French finished eight. Croatia beat France at EuroBaskets 1993 and 1995 on their way to consecutive bronze medal finishes.
Last time out: France rallied in the second half to beat Turkey 80-68 while Croatia erased a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to edge out Russia 76-69.
Key match-up: Having seen Diaw leave the game against Turkey with a sprained ankle, France head coach is likely to rest key players Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum to avoid any more injuries. Expect guards Antoine Diot and Yannick Bokolo to play a lot of minutes and they are likely to be tested as Croatia only have three guards available with Ukic bothered by a groin injury. Youngster Kus Davor will get his fair share of playing time but so will proven veterans Marko Popovic and Zoran Planinic.
Stats: 23 - The combined number of turnovers France have had in the first half of their last two games. In their quarter-final defeat against Spain, Vincent Collet's men turned the ball over 11 times before the break. And they showed they could go one better (or worse, depending on your point of view) when they gave away possession 12 times over the course of the first two quarters of their defeat of Turkey.
Sounding off: "We have already qualified (for the 2010 World Championship) but it's important that no player gets hurt. I will split the minutes and give them all a chance." - Croatia head coach Jasmin Repesa.