by Paul Nilsen
Czech Republic are emerging as the surprise team of the tournament after they completed an impressive 83-64 rout of Poland to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Having lost both of their opening games after arriving in Naples it seemed almost unthinkable that Coach Fousek and his players could make the last eight but they continue to improve with every game.
This latest success was a victory summed up by the new found confidence of Assistant Coach Zdenek Sykora who was already looking forward to another big game on Friday.
"We are very happy to win the game of course and we now wait to see who we have to play. I think it is not too important to think about who it is."
"I know that we can win any game. Poland beat Russia and we have won against Poland so anything is possible and we are confident."
"Before we came to Naples we did not know what to expect and we did not feel either way of what could be achieved."
"We were surprised to win by as many against Poland but only the win is important to us, not the score."
Both teams went into the game off the back of thrilling wins but it was Nela Vesela who started the first quarter like an express train. She rattled off seven quick fire points to help Czech Republic open up an early 9-4 lead. It was a lead that had turned to double digits inside the first five minutes when Kamila Selucka made a three followed by a lay-up by the impressive Tereza Vyoralova.
Perhaps Poland were still thinking about their momentous win against Russia the previous day but their collective minds certainly weren't on this game. They played with no intensity on defence, didn't rebound and could not muster anything remotely symbolising a well run offence.
Time and time again the Czech Republic had second, third and even fourth chance offences which meant that Poland only managed to shoot the ball ten times in ten minutes as their opponents were treated to more than double this.
It was a very strange opening and not surprisingly Czech Republic scored the last 11 points of the quarter to take what proved to be an insurmountable lead at 25-6. Coach Pasieczny only needed to take one look at the 16-5 rebound count to know where his problems lay.
Within seconds Czech Republic had broken the 20 point advantage barrier and it looked a desperately long way back for Poland at 33-8, only 12 minutes into the game, their win against Russia looking more of a freak result with each passing moment.
Heading towards the end of the half, Poland slowly found some offensive rhythm but that barely mattered as they were unable to stop their opponents scoring. Consequently they headed back to the locker rooms looking well and truly buried at 52-22.
Only Beata Jaworska was anywhere near her normal level and she continued to fight almost a lone battle as she took her tally to 15 points early in the third as Poland struggled to make any inroads into the Czech lead.
That meant that the second half was almost a non-event other than Magdelena Koperwas managing to establish herself as the top scorer in the game with 18 points and the celebrations for the Czech team who now watch on with interest to find out their next opponent.