|25 August 2013|
By Paul Nilsen
|Esther Fokke and the Netherlands need to put Saturday behind them quicker than the Serbians do, should have a chance of claiming bronze |
There is a real sense of déjà vu at the U18 European Championship Women in Vukovar as Netherlands and Serbia look to take the last remaining spot on the podium in a repeat of last years' bronze medal match-up.
The contest will not only feature the same nations, but also the same two head coaches from Bucharest last summer when Serbia prevailed.
In fact, the pair also pitted their wits against each other only last month at the FIBA World Championship for Women when Dutch play-caller Remy De Wit masterminded a narrow one-point win.
"We know each other very well and have met often," confirmed the coach.
"It will be a very interesting game and I believe my team will be ready because it is a medal game.
"Our goal coming into the tournament was to play for medals and that is what we will finish doing.
"We will regroup together and that is my job as head coach - to make sure the girls leave any disappointment behind and just focus solely on getting the bronze medal."
It was certainly a tough night at the office for both coaches during their semi-final games. Serbian head coach Zoran Kovacic watched on in agony as his team fluffed their chance to win the game at the death against France.
It was a different kind of pain for De Wit, since he watched his team get outclassed and played off the floor by the sensational Spanish team.
In refreshingly candid fashion, the coach did not pull any punches and admitted his team had not been at the races at all.
"I think three of our starters did okay for us, but a couple of the girls didn't do as well as they did previously in the tournament and that is tough because Spain are such a good team," explained De Wit.
"It is not only about us though, because Spain did an amazing job and I think Spain are favourites to win this tournament.
"We were just not ready for them.
"Sometimes we also have to learn to play a little bit tougher and show even more heart in these difficult type of situations."
He added, "However, the players know this is one last chance and we will look forward to coming back and ending our summer with this last big game against Serbia."
The Netherlands will have to raise their game if they want to go one better than last year and what better way to find the motivation than to be the first winners of a women's youth medal in Dutch basketball history.
Serbia meanwhile will be eager to follow up their accomplishments of last year by replicating their medal success and remaining near the centre of the women's basketball radar after the accomplishments earlier this summer of the senior team at Eurobasket Women.
Additionally, many in Serbia did not necessarily anticipate or expect success from this current generation and so to land yet another bronze really would be a terrific achievement.