Preview by Yarone Arbel
|FYR of Macedonia no longer have the element of surpirse to their favour. 'They are a strong team and we will study them closely,' says Russia's Viktor Khryapa |
GROUP F - MONDAY AT 21:00 (20:00 CET)
Two of the hottest teams in EuroBasket 2011 will meet in Vilnius Arena for the deciding game of Group F.
The winner will take the top spot in the group and march into the quarter-finals with a good momentum.
After France's defeat to Spain on Sunday, only one team hasn't dropped a game so far in EuroBasket 2011 and that's Russia.
Moreover the way they win becomes more and more impressive.
While in the First Round it took a lot of heartbeats, in the Second Round Russia has registered two one-sided wins.
The 19-point victory over Finland seemed natural but then came a 16-point win over Greece that made it clear how serious Russia are in this competition.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia aren't too far behind.
They dropped their first game but have since then won every single one, including against powerhouses as Croatia, Greece and Slovenia.
They are no longer an underdog here, or a team that somehow slides into the Quarter-Finals.
They are here to make a statement.
From all the teams that come from the former Yugoslavia the only ones to qualify so far are Serbia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia and if Slovenia drop the game against Finland it'll stay this way.
A bigger statement than that is difficult to make.
Head-to-Head: Russia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia have faced each other three times in the past and Russia won all three games, but the last time the teams met, at EuroBasket 2009, it was a close 71-69 win.
Last Time Out: Russia beat Greece 83-67 and stayed perfect in EuroBasket 2011. F.Y.R. of Macedonia got their sixth win in a row with a 68-59 triumph over Slovenia.
Key Match-Up: Aleksey Shved of Russia and Bo McCalebb of F.Y.R. of Macedonia are the main executers from the back court in each side. Their creativity plays a big part in the run of their team's offense. McCalebb is more of a scorer. Shved is playing a great championship but still blooming. How he'll do against one of the best point guards at this EuroBasket will make a big impact on the game.
Key Stat: Excluding one game, Russia didn't allow any team to score more than 67 points, while F.Y.R. of Macedonia scored in all of their wins but one at least 68 points. This number could be the difference maker on the night.
X-Factor: F.Y.R. of Macedonia's Pero Antic, who played in Russia the past season, is one of the key players of his team. His presence in the paint on defense with his outside shooting on offense make him a great tool for Coach Dokuzovski. Yet in the last three games he hit only three times from the arc in 13 attempts. If he warms up his handle, things will be much more difficult for Russia that will have to stretch their very tough defense in the paint.
Sounding Off: "F.Y.R. of Macedonia is a strong team that proved it in their last games again and again. We play them for the first spot in this group and it says pretty much everything about their performance here. We will study them closely like any other team," says Russia's Viktor Khryapa.