By Yarone Arbel
Two teams in a very uncommon state will take the stage first on the second day of the games in Bydgoszcz when F.Y.R. of Macedonia and Germany will go head-to-head.
Germany stand on a 1-2 record, while their opponent are still looking for their first win in the Qualifying Round. So far nothing unusual, but what makes this game special is their state of mind.
Both sides arrived to the championship with ambitions but very small expectations. Before the games tipped off both of them would have accept a scenario in which they got eliminated in the Qualifying Round.
Without Dirk Nowitzki Germany mostly wanted to prove they can still have a say in EuroBasket while F.Y.R.O.M. first of all looked for their debut win ever on the biggest stage of Europe. The spot in the next round is just a very big bonus.
Yet something about this situation is even more unique, as both teams actually still have a chance to make it the top eight, especially Germany.
A loss would mean F.Y.R.O.M. is out of the race for sure, which leaves just one more country for Germany to eliminate to be in the top eight and that team can be either Russia or Croatia - they have already beaten the Russians and they will face Croatia on the last day of the Qualifying Round for a win-or-die game in which anything can happen.
F.Y.R.O.M. will tie records with Germany in case of a win, and face Russia on the last day. If there's not going to be any big upset between Russia and Greece later on today, that last day game will be another win-or-die.
One of these two underdogs will win this game, and whoever that may very likely be only 40 minutes from an unbelievable achievement in EuroBasket 2009.
That alone is enough to focus a lot of attention on this game.
Head-to-head: Only two matches in the history of those teams and in both Germany won. In the 2003 the Germans won 74-80 in Ohrid, and 86-78 on their home court. Like now, back then as well, Germany missed Dirk Nowitzki, so their perfect record is still a good reference for nowadays.
Last time out: Both sides suffered losses on the first day of the Qualifying Round but in two very different styles. Germany lost by eight points, 84-76, to Greece after a big fight for 40 minutes, while F.Y.R.O.M. were crushed by France in an 83-57 defeat.
Stats: Germany and F.Y.R.O.M. are ranked last in assists per game here in Poland. They are the only teams in the championship to dish less than 11 assists per game. They are also ranked last, among the teams who still participate, in points per game and field goal percentages. It will be interesting to follow how these two will react on offense against each other.
Key Match-Up: Jan-Henrick Jagla didn't have a good shooting tournament so far. For a player who once scored nine three-pointers in a single game in the top Turkish league, and stood on 37.2% average last season in the Euroleague we could expect to make better than four three pointers in 25% he's having here. F.Y.R.O.M. have their own big guys who can shoot from distance in Todor Gecevski and Pero Antic. Those big men three pointers are very important for both teams. Whoever reach more of them, will have easier life grabbing the win.
X-Factor: Benzing had a big show against Greece, and proved a 20 year old talent can contribute in a high level game also in the top stage of Europe against a top team as Greece, but what differs talents from stars is consistency. If Benzing is able to bring that good performance back-to-back Germany will enjoy a big advantage.
Sounding-Off: If we can play with 100 percent and a lot of energy, we may have an interesting game. If we show defense like we did against France then we have no chance," Petar Arsic, the bench boss of F.Y.R.O.M.