France And Lithuania Look To Stay Perfect

23 July 2008

Wednesday will see a full slate of action both Groups of the Qualifying Round as teams jockey for a spot in the semi-finals.

Only two undefeated teams remain in Lithuania and France with the French facing the toughest test when they face rivals Spain. 

Poland (1-2)
and the Ukraine (1-2) will aim to climb out of Group E's bottom three when they clash in the opening game on Day 2 of the Qualifying Round at the City Hall in Nitra. Both teams were hammered -

Two Sweden players celebrate a win over Croatia
Sweden will look to hold on to the momentum gained from a win over Russia when they face Bulgaria.
by the Czech Republic and Lithuania respectively - on Tuesday and have a lot of adjustments to make in order to be competitive again.  The most pressing matter for Roman Skrzecz's girls will be trying to rediscover the three-point touch they displayed in their win against Turkey (10 for 25) on Sunday. As for the Ukraine, Ol'Ha Maznichenko must get better offensive production out of Katerina Dorogobuzova and Olesya Malashenko, who have been inconsistent so far in the tournament.

Meanwhile at the SPU, Sweden (1-2) must carry over the momentum gained from an impressive win over Russia as they face a deflated Bulgaria (0-3), who were crushed by the steamrolling French.  Following a sub-par performance which resulted in a loss to Serbia in their final game of the preliminary round, the Swedes took it to the Russians and handed them their first loss of the tournament thanks to a 26-point eruption by Cleopatra Forsman. As such, Bulgaria have a tough task ahead of them as they try to snap a three-game losing streak. Ventislav Getchev's side won their opener against Belarus 69-62 last Friday but have been blown out by 40 or more points twice since.

In the first early evening game, Russia (2-1) will be put to the test by reigning champions Serbia (1-2). Both teams are coming off surprise defeats: the Russians, as mentioned above, had their worst offensive output of the competition so far as they went down against Sweden while Spain got the better of the defending champions in a re-match of last year's final. Should the Russians win this game, they will be able to apply pressure on France who are flying high in first place in Group F.

The Slovak Republic (1-2) must forget their disappointing second-half performance against Turkey in order to face up to the tall task of pushing Lithuania (3-0) to their first defeat. The hosts saw a 10-point half-time lead waste away as they were edged out by the Turks on Tuesday. Michal Porubcan's side have seen their scoring - and shooting percentages - drop considerably since beating rivals the Czech Republic last Friday and need for someone to step up and help out Klaudia Lukacovicova. As for Lithuania, they have won every one of their games so far by at least 12 points and, with a balanced offense which has seen four players average double-digits in scoring, it is likely their run will continue tonight.

In the last game of the day at City Hall, Spain (2-1) will bid to spoil the fun for undefeated France (3-0). Since dropping their opener to Russia on Friday, the Spaniards have turned things around and lived up to the expectations by sweeping aside Belarus and Bulgaria before gaining some measure of revenge against Serbia, their tormentors in last year's final. The bench production has been a key factor for Carlos Colinas's girls and they will all need to be at their best against a French team that has shown it too can go deep into the rotation. France have won each of their first four games by at least 30 points and the added bonus has been the ability to rest key players such as captain Allison Vernerey and Diandra Tchatchouang , neither of whom has averaged more than 20 minutes of playing time so far.

The final game at SPU features the Czech Republic (2-1) and Turkey (1-2). The Czechs are coming off a route of Poland in which they shot a sizzling 54.5 per cent (12 of 22) from three-point range. However, they were a mediocre 33 per cent (21 of 63) from inside the arc. The X factor for them will be a case of striking the right balance. Turkey must also learn to be make the right choices in their shot selection as they were a meagre 18 of 65 from the field against the Slovak Republic. They were able to win that game thanks to their 17 made free-throws and should look to continue that approach by attacking the basket instead of forcing contested shots from the perimeter.

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