France, Croatia Battle For Beijing

15 September 2007
By David Hein
France and Croatia may be down after losing in their quarter-final showdowns with Russia and Lithuania, respectively but a spot in the pre-Olympic tournament is up for grabs when they hook up Saturday in the 5th-8th classification round.

The winner advances to the tourney while the loser has one final chance to make the pre-Olympic event in the game for 7th place.

Tariq Kirksay (France)
Tariq Kirksay has scored in bunches for France and could be a key against Croatia.
Both France and Croatia missed free throws in the waning seconds which could have evened the game.

So, expect both teams to try to eventually pull away and put less pressure on themselves from the foul stripe.

Last Time Out: France lost to Russia 75-71 in the quarter-finals while Croatia fell to Lithuania 74-72.

Key Match-Up: Zoran Planinic vs Joseph Gomis - the Croatian had a great game against Lithuania but missed his two foul shots with one second remaining. Expect Planinic to be extra motivated against the French and will a size mis-match against Gomis - 1.97m to 1.80m. Florent Pietrus may move over and try to shot down the Tau Vitoria star.

X-Factor: Tariq Kirksay, the veteran American-born small forward has scored in double digits four times thus far - never in more than 24 minutes - and he's averaged 2.75 steals over the past four games. Those numbers could come in handy against Croatia.

Stats: France allowed Russia to hit 50% (8-of-16) of their three-pointers and they can't do that against a top shooting side like Croatia. The Croatians came into the Lithuania showdown hitting 77% of their foul shots but made just 8-of-19 (42%) from the stripe in the quarter-final.

Sounding Off: France forward Florent Pietrus: "The tournament is far from over. We still have a lot to play for with the bid in the pre-Olympic tournament still there for the taking. The loss against Russia has been digested and all of our attention is on this game."

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