By Yarone Arbel
Belgium have never finished above the sixth place, which means they have never won a quarter-finals game.
The bad news for them is that the quarter-finals is where Spain excels.
In the last three EuroBaskets Spain have always won their quarters game but lost in the semi's and finished with a bronze medal.
Belgium arrives after two close losses in their last two games, but those losses were to Latvia and the champs from the Czech Republic.
It proved Belgium can match up the top level, but showed they are still looking for the experience that will give them the small benefits to win close games.
|Valdemoro is Spain's big weapon and will need to come up big against Belgium.|
Luckily for them when playing against Spain this attribute is rarely needed.
Spain is coming from a different place.
Other than one close game against Serbia on Day 2, all their other games, either they won or lost, was decided by a wide margin.
Last Result: Belgium lost in the very last minutes to the champs Czech Republic 72-70. Spain lost to the runner-ups from Russia 64-49.
Key Matchup: When it comes to Belgium there's really no doubt. Ann Wauters is the key and she'll need to march her team to the win. In the last two games she seemed unstoppable at times. If Spain manage to prove she is stoppable after all, they'll probably continue their tradition and play another semi-finals game. For Spain this should be a joint forces. Cindy Lima, Lucia Pascua, Marta Zurro and Anna Montanana have 20 fouls to give and more energy to share than Wauters. Spain should hope that will be enough.
X-Factor: The more attention the Belgian back court will attract, the easier time Wauters will have, and so Anke de Mondt of Belgium can be the x-factor of this game. She's one of the finest outside shooters in this championship. She hits more three-pointers than anyone else in the competition (2.8 per game) and connects at a very good 44.7%. If she keep this average, perhaps even better it, against Spain, it's going to be a much more difficult task for Spain to handle Wauters.
Key Stat: Both teams score in more or less the same percentages from the field and the free throw line. Only two and a half points divide their scoring average. The big difference comes in the rhythm. While Spain takes 51.2 shots from the field per game Belgium takes 62.5. Each team will try to force the style that would fit best for their needs, and this is where the game will probably be decided.
What Does it Mean? – Simple and clear. The winner will continue to dream of a gold medal while the loser will have to fight for the 5th place that will be able to play in the Olympics qualifications next summer.