By Jared Grellet
Coming into the quarter-finals as the only undefeated team at the Dadu U16 European Championship, all eyes are on Italy as the tournament moves onto Vilnius and the quarter-final phase.
|Pierfrancesco Oliva and Italy are looking to keep their run alive against Poland in the Quarter-Finals|
Italy have been impressive through the opening two rounds, winning on average by over 12 points a night with a tendency to get the job done inside the paint as Pierfrancesco Oliva acts as their main instigator under the boards.
If Poland are to have any chance of containing the Italians, shutting down Oliva will have to be one of their first objectives. Poland's strength has been in their guards, namely the Zywert twins, Kamil and Marek. Leading their team in points (12.3) and assists (4.3) respectively, the combining of the two will go a long way to paving the way to an upset victory.
After being surprised by Germany in their opening game, Serbia have been solid, if not convincing, in their next five games. To date their biggest victory has only been by nine points, suggesting that if it comes down to the wire, the Serbs may well have the edge over their Spanish rivals in the day's second semi-final.
Going through the opening round undefeated, Spain never looked like winning in the second round and are going to need some big games from their starting five if they are to halt their losing streak on Friday. Marc Garcia has been constantly leading his team in point scoring (16.5 a game) off the bench, but will require at least one other player to put in a significant contribution against Serbia.
Battling through a difficult first round group alongside Italy and defending champions, Croatia, Turkey flourished in the second round with their superior height providing problems for Spain and Ukraine. They did however suffer a slight glitch in their final second round game against Latvia but with their quarter final berth confirmed and Latvia wanting to say goodbye to their home fans in style, not too much can be read into this.
Germany showed glimpses of their full potential in Panevezys, but are yet to put together a complete
|looked unstoppable at times for Croatia: big man Marko Arapovic|
performance. Having made the third least three-point attempts in the tournament, Germany showed in the third quarter of their match-up against France just how damaging they can be when they look outside, going four-for-five in the quarter. Against the superior height of Turkey, this is a facet of the game they will need to look to more frequently.
The last quarter-final potentially presents the most fascinating match-up when the tournament's best offensive outfit comes up against the best defensive unit.
Croatia lead the Championship in point-per-game with 76.8 whilst France languish in last place, averaging 59 points a night. To date France have been able to disguise their shortcomings on offence with their superior defence. In three of their four wins, the French have kept their opponents to under 50 points. In their two losses, to Lithuania and Serbia, Les Blues only allowed their opponents to score 56 points in both games.
Key to Croatian victory revolves around their double-threat of Marko Arapovic and Lovro Mazalin who are both averaging over seven rebounds and 15 points a night. If France can neutralise these two players, it will go a long way to securing them victory.