Israel hosts Slovakia in its final home game of EuroBasket 2013 qualification on
Saturday night, but everyone’s focus has already long shifted to next Tuesday’s
showdown against Serbia in Belgrade.
After defeating Slovakia by 16
points on the road two weeks ago, the national team will be confident of
claiming another comfortable win on Saturday ahead of its 10th and final
qualifier in Serbia.
The winner of that encounter will finish in second
place in Group A and secure automatic qualification for the European
The blue-and-white beat Iceland 92-75 on Wednesday to
improve to a 5-3 record and take a stranglehold of third position in the
A win against Slovakia will guarantee Israel at least a third
place finish, and even should the national team lose in Serbia, it will be well
positioned to be among the best four third-placed finishers from the six
qualifying groups which will also advance to next summer’s championships in
Israel is already all but certain to finish ahead of the team
which will end Group C in third (Austria or Hungary), but it will need results
in other groups to go its way as well, specifically Group B in which Azerbaijan,
Bulgaria and Sweden are battling for second and third positions, to ensure it
qualifies from third place.
"We are thinking about the game against
Serbia all the time,” admitted veteran center Ido Kozikaro, who scored eight
points off the bench against Iceland, more than doubling his contribution in the
qualifying campaign until that stage.
"But we know that before we face
Serbia we have a game against Slovakia which we can’t afford to lose.” Raviv
Limonad was also one of the main benefactors from coach Arik Shivek’s decision
to go deep into his bench against the Icelanders, playing a campaign high 27
"It is difficult to come out fighting for a game against
Iceland, but we eventually managed to get the win and we need to do the same
against Slovakia,” Limonad said. “We are trying to take one game at a time and
not look too far ahead. We will first beat Slovakia and then we will know far
better where we stand ahead of the game at Serbia.”