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(photo credit: AP)
Israel no longer has its fate in its own hands, but if it is to have any hope of advancing directly to EuroBasket 2009, or even reaching the additional qualifying tournament, it must defeat Bosnia on Wednesday evening at the Nokia Arena.
Over the last two weeks Tzvika Sherf's team has lost three qualifiers to Bosnia, the Czech Republic and Great Britain, all on the road, creating an unexpected level of concern within the camp.
But even more worrying than the simple fact that it was defeated, was the way in which the team succumbed.
Israel lost the games by an average 12.3 points, and if it wasn't for some good fortune in the home encounter against the Brits, the side would have been entering Wednesday's game with a 0-4 record.
"We're not ignoring our poor play and we're not pleased with our ability," Sherf said on Tuesday.
"I'm aware that the players are insecure. All the players are downcast, but from my talks with them I know they're very aware of their situation and are very determined to do the best they can."
Israel is not only the worst defensive team in Group D, but also the worst in all four qualification groups.
It has conceded an average of 89 points per game and of the 17 teams looking to qualify for the European Championships is the only one to allow its opponents to score more than 50 percent of its attempted field goals (50.2%).
Bosnia (2-2) defeated Israel 77-71 last week and will be in a confident mood on Wednesday after thrashing the Czechs 95-79 on Saturday.
Mirza Teletovic leads Bosnia with 12 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and is the team's only player with a double-digit average.
Eight other of the team's players, however, average more than 6.8 points, giving coach Mensur Bajramovic a balanced roster to work with.
"Even though Israel expects to win we have a good chance," Bajramovic said.
Nationalized American Ernest JR. Bremer leads the Bosnians in assists and his playmaking skills will be significant on Wednesday.
"The key to advance from this group is to win on the road and I hope we will be the first team to get an away victory," Bremer said.
One of Israel's biggest problems in the current campaign has been rebounding. The only time the team managed to out-rebound its opponent was also the only time it ended a qualifier as the winner.
No Israeli player is averaging more than 5 rebounds per game, but big-men Ido Kozikaro is confident all that will change against Bosnia.
"Of course we're very disappointed and frustrated after losing to teams we could have beaten," he said.
"We are, however, coming back to play at home and are motivated to compensate the fans. We need the crowd to support us at this tough time."
Sherf also stressed the importance of the fans support and is confident the team will show a dramatic improvement on Wednesday.
"It's very important to us that as many fans as possible come to cheer us at our current low," he said.
"This game is extremely important to us and I believe the players will fight harder and be more aggressive than they're been so far in this campaign."