By Yarone Arbel
The second match in Group E in Bydgoszcz will feature Germany and Greece, two teams with different targets.
Greece arrive as the Group A king carrying two wins in their back pocket, and wish to remain perfect after the first day of the Qualifying Round. One more win should give them a lot of breathing space coming into the next few days.
Germany made it to the Qualifying Round only in the closing seconds of Group B and cherish every extra minute they get to spend at EuroBasket 2009 after arriving with minimum expectations.
Germany has a very young roster and a limited team on the offensive end, but their team play and fighting spirit is what brought them here, not only with a win over Russia but also with the knowledge they matched-up with a powerhouse as France.
Greece eye the third day of the Qualifying Round when they will match up with France, which will probably be their first real challenge here, but until then need to make sure there will be no slump in their readiness and concentration.
Another walk in the park as the first and last games in Group A will allow Greece to focus on the later stages earlier than others, but might also hurt their sharpness when the big Quarter-Finals day arrive and a strong contender will wait at the other side of court.
Until then they will try to maintain the ambitious German team that will hope not to suffer the same blow Israel and the F.Y.R. of Macedonia felt before in Poznan.
Head-to-head: The all time record is in favor of the Germans who won five games and lost four, but the last time these two giants faced each other it was on the biggest stage. The 2005 EuroBasket finals featured Greece and Germany and the 78-62 victory lit up thousands of fans in the Belgrade Arena and much more in Athens. That game registered the biggest margin in these match-ups, as seven of the games between the two were decided by no more than five point difference.
Last time out: Greece secured the top of Group A by setting the tournament high in points behind a 106-80 win over Israel. Russia was five points short against France after a 69-64 loss to take a 1-2 record in Group B.
Stats: We got used for many years to see Greece as a defensive oriented team with a slow paced around the 70 ppg offense, but under Coach Jonas Kazlauskas and after three days of games Greece is topping the Most Points category with 89.3 ppg, and leading the field goal percentages ranking with 57.9%, and second in assists with 17.7. Nevertheless, they still remain one of the best defensive teams by allowing only 67.3 ppg and stealing more balls than any other team here at 9.3 spg.
Key Match-Up: When Ioannis Bourousis was a 17 years old junior player Patrick Femerling was playing a big role in Olympiacos Piraeus. Nowadays things are different. Bouroursis is a star emerging to stardom in the same Greek club, while the 34 year old Femerling is entering the later section of his career. Their match-up could be decisive today. If Femerling will gather his experience and manage to limit the Greek big guy, Greece could face trouble. If Femerling fails, Germany will have to try several other big guys, as Tim Ohlbrecht and Tibor Pleiß, yet they are much younger and less experienced, and it might not be enough to handle the Greek big.
X-Factor: Simple math. Germany averaged 67.7 ppg so far and never their best offensive display was the 76 points scored over Russia, which they will probably not going to reach against the aggressive Greek defense. In order to match up with Greece the gang of Coach Dirk Bauermann will have to limit the #1 offense in the tournament. If Point Guard Steffen Hamann could limit Nikos Zisis and/or Vasilis Spanoulis that would be a big step towards reaching that goal.
Sounding-Off: "No team is just going to give us the victory to go to the next round. We have to earn it. For us to earn it we have to go out and fight hard," Germany's Demond Greene knows what it will take to be in Katowice.