Eurobasket: Israel needs results to go its way

Israel must beat Spain to progress, but still relies on Russian, Greek victories.

By
September 11, 2007 04:38
2 minute read.
yotam halperin 88

yotam halperin 88. (photo credit: )

Israel will need to record one more massive upset and receive some help from Russia and Greece on Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinal stage of the EuroBasket championships in Madrid. The national team faces host and world champion Spain on Tuesday, knowing that only a win will provide them with any hope of progressing to the last eight. Israel will also need Russia and Greece to defeat Croatia and Portugal respectively in Tuesday's earlier games for it to book itself a shock place among the eight quarterfinalists. "The truth of the matter is that the outcome of the game depends on Spain and not on us," Israel coach Tzvika Sherf said on Monday. "I can't say that Spain is not a good team because then I'd either be a drunk or a liar and I'm neither. Spain is obviously the favorite as it has outstanding players in every position. The Spaniards are the favorites to win the entire championships." Sherf's Israel defeated Spain in the European Championships two years ago, but the coach feels that many things have changed since the teams' last meeting. "Two years ago they didn't have Pau Gasol and were coached by somebody else. Gasol is a leader and scores for the team when nothing else works. I don't see how we'll stop him," Sherf said. NBA all-star Gasol, who has played an average 27 minutes during the tournament, leads Spain in scoring with 19.8 points per game and also grabs 6.2 rebounds. He is, however, only one of many weapons in the host's squad. Spain, which booked its place in the quarterfinals on Sunday with an 81-69 victory over previously undefeated Russia, boasts one of the most impressive squads in the championships. Rudy Fernandez, who was selected in the 24th position by the Phoenix Suns in this year's NBA draft, averages 12.6 points and can threaten the Israel defense from the paint and from beyond the arc. Toronto Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa (7.4 ppg) completes a superb frontcourt and will be a nuisance to defend against, despite only just returning from injury in recent weeks. Garbajosa's Toronto teammate Jose Calderon (9.2 ppg, 3 apg) and Barcelona's Juan Navarro (11 ppg) are Spain's most dangerous backcourt players, but even they have to split play time with their many talented teammates. "Spain is the best team in the tournament. We need to give our all and hope they'll be complacent," Israel forward Ido Kozikaro said. "We need to pray for a miracle. We beat them two years ago and maybe we can do so again." Israel will need Yaniv Green (12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and Meir Taprio (7.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) to put their fatigue aside for one last time and improve on their disappointing performances against Portugal to have any chance of winning. Lior Eliyahu, who scored 29 points and took nine rebounds in Israel's nine point loss to Portugal on Sunday, said: "We still have a chance. It may not be very big, but we must remain optimistic. I watched them play on Sunday and they're an amazing team. They have NBA players on the bench." Matan Naor's fighting qualities could prove to be crucial for Israel on Tuesday, but even he found it difficult to remain positive when asked if the national team could defeat Spain. "Nobody believed we would get this far," he said. "The outcome of the game, however, depends on the Spaniards. It will be almost impossible for us to win if they are focused." On TV: Israel vs Spain (live at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 10)


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