By Paul Nilsen
|Russia Head Coach David Blatt, a EuroBasket winner in 2007, warns Lithuania that the underdogs of the quarter-finals, FYR of Macedonia, are anything but an easy opponent |
Anyone still unconvinced by the danger posed by F.Y.R. of Macedonia heading into the quarter-final against Lithuania had better sit up and take note.
For Marin Dokuzovski and his players have a major fan in Russia head coach David Blatt. The play-caller has been waxing lyrical about F.Y.R. of Macedonia in the wake of his team's dramatic and thrilling last gasp success against them.
He has paid tribute to the accomplishments of a nation who continue in their quest to gain recognition after six wins and only two very narrow tournament losses so far.
"I can only congratulate Coach Dokuzovski for the great job he has done with his team during the tournament." said Blatt.
"I am not going to call them the surprise of the tournament because they have a great coach and some very good and smart players who play together.
"They've played a great tournament so far and it's been no surprise to me because I know what they are made of.
"They are a tough team to play."
He added, "Woe is he who has them in the next round(s) and is not ready because this is a serious basketball team."
Blatt also lifted the lid on having to plot the downfall of a team more than capable of assuming the role of party poopers in Kaunas by denying the hosts a place in the Semi-Finals.
He explained, "We had to find every ounce of our ability and our solutions to be able to win against them.
"We didn't play well because they forced us not to play well and had a tough time because they are tough.
"They play a certain way. They wear you down, they attack you and teams get depressed and can drop off the map.
Blatt continued, "They play the right players for the right situations and they make it awfully hard. It really was a hard game for me to coach when facing such a worthy opponent."
F.Y.R. of Macedonia have already surpassed their previous best record at the EuroBasket by some distance and now have the opportunity to put themselves firmly on the basketball map by knocking out the expectant hosts.
Even if they lose, F.Y.R. of Macedonia will still have an Olympic dream to cling on to with their aim very much a place at the Qualifying Tournament next year.