EUROCHALLENGE FINAL FOUR
EWE Baskets Oldenburg and BCM Gravelines Dunkerque approach their Sunday clash in the third-place game of the EuroChallenge Final Four in Izmir from diametrically opposing perspectives.
To Christian Monschau, the head coach of the French side, leaving Turkey with the consolation of third spot carries a symbolic and psychological significance that cannot be overlooked.
"It's like in the Olympics, the World Championship or the EuroBasket," the 53-year-old tactician told fibaeurope.com.
"There is a podium and of course you've got to play for it, otherwise you don't do it; there is a sense of pride in this, especially this year.
"We are very happy and very proud to be here as this is probably one of the strongest Final Fours in history.
"The four teams here are at the same level as in the Eurocup and I could even say they are quite close to the level of the teams that qualified to the Final Four of the [Turkish Airlines] Euroleague."
Monschau, a keen observer of the European game in its totality, has a strong argument to back this assumption.
Krasnye Krylia finished the VTB Regular Season with the same record as Eurocup champions Lokomotiv Kuban (12-6) while the other EuroChallenge finalists, Final Four hosts Pinar Karsiyaka, have the same number of victories in the Turkish BEKO Ligi as Anadolu Efes, a side that came one step from denying reigning champions Olympiacos a spot in the Euroleague Final Four.
Oldenburg head coach Sebastian Machowski holds a different view to that of his colleague on Sunday's game.
"The question is how we will get through the day because we have two guys injured and two guys sick since yesterday [Friday]," the German tactician and former international said worryingly.
"So this is the [main] point, and of course after that if we can get the bronze medal, we will.
"Unfortunately though, this game does not mean that much to either team, as for both of us the [domestic league] play-offs start soon.
"I would have rather played in the final and I guess Christian Monschau would say the same thing.
"It's still a great test and I am sure both teams want to win although naturally it's not of the same importance as the semi-finals, which unfortunately both of us lost very closely."
|Christian Monschau: "We are very happy and very proud to be here as this is probably one of the strongest Final Fours in history."|
On Friday, Oldenburg fell 66-62 to Karsiyaka in an epic battle, while BCM lost 81-78 to Krasnye Krylia; both games could have easily gone either way.
"We are very frustrated from the loss in the semi-final, because we had our chances to win it, but I don't think we played our best game, especially in the first quarter," Monschau explained.
The experienced French coach can also appreciate fully the German side's disposition:
"Oldenburg came here with a big ambition, like all four teams, you saw how tight the two semi-finals were," he says.
"Obviously they had a chance and came so close to winning against a great team and a great crowd, so we will have a big challenge on Sunday, definitely.
"They are a great team, with very good players and their coach is doing a fantastic job, they are dominant in the German championship where they are sure to finish second behind [Brose Baskets] Bamberg," Monschau says with honest admiration about his team's opponents.
Machowski reciprocates with a good-natured identical compliment.
"BCM have a great team, a great coach..." he starts with a smile.
"No but seriously, they are in first position in France and have been having an excellent season.
"It is a nice comparison, the number one in France against the number two in Germany, so of course we can make it into a nice game."
On this, the two coaches coincide completely; Sunday's third-place game is definitely going to prove a beautiful basketball encounter worth watching.
"I'm pretty sure Oldenburg are going to put up a big fight because the coach and their players are like that," Monschau says.
"I hope we will be at the same level and the two of us will offer a great game."