By David Hein
France hope to avoid a major slip-up as they face off against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Qualifying Round Group E action at EuroBasket 2009 in Bydgoszcz.
Vincent Collet's French look to remain perfect and move to 3-0 in the group while F.Y.R.O.M. are hunting for a major upset and improving to 1-2.
Save for when Tony Parker took over the action, France have struggled on offense in all three games - though they did improve in their victory over Russia. Collet hopes that ball and player movement seen against Russia can continue.
|The unenviable task of containing Tony Parker will fall on the shoulders of Vrbica Stefanov.|
The French coach also would not mind his team building a big lead early so he can rest his starting point guard as Parker has already logged 33.3 minutes per game.
F.Y.R.O.M. meanwhile admit they are just happy to have advanced past the Preliminary Round. Everything from this point is just building upon the experience of playing at a high level tournament.
Jovica Arsic's men just want to play the best basketball that they can and hope that France struggle and give them a slight chance to spring the surprise.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia do however have the low post players to play with France with the likes of Jeremiah Massey, Pero Antic, Todor Gechevski and Predrag Samardziski.
But the question will be if the wings and guards can keep up with the French athleticism.
Head to Head: France and F.Y.R. of Macedonia have only faced off once and France won that encounter, 71-67 at EuroBasket 1999.
Last Time Out: France notched their third straight victory of the tournament beating Russia 69-64. F.Y.R.O.M. had a 17 point lead against Croatia before losing 81-71.
Key Match-up: Vrbica Stefanov vs Tony Parker. France's Tony Parker torched Germany, Latvia and Russia for an average of 19.7 points in the Preliminary Round. Next up for the 27-year-old NBA star is 35-year-old veteran Stefanov, who must figure out a way to slow down Parker for F.Y.R.O.M. to have even a minor chance for an upset.
X-Factor: F.Y.R.O.M. outside shooters. F.Y.R.O.M. have taken the most three-pointers in the tournament - 29.7 per game - but Arsic's men have only made 27 percent of the long balls (only France, Serbia and Bulgaria were worse). If Vrbica Stefanov and Riste Stefanov - a combined 8 of 31 - can finally find their form then F.Y.R.O.M. may have a chance.
Key stat: 40.3 and 30.7. France have grabbed the most rebounds per game with 40.3, including 14.0 offensive boards per game, which has given them 9.3 more rebounds per game than their opponents. F.Y.R.O.M. average just 30.7 rebounds a game - the lowest for any team still at EuroBasket 2009 - and watched their opponents grab 6.7 more rebounds per game.
Sounding off: "We are really just happy to be here but we will try to present as good basketball as we can. And if they give us a chance then we will try to use it. But they are a better team than us." -F.Y.R.O.M. coach Jovica Arsic