JS Kairouan looking to upset African champions AS Sale in the FINAL-FOUR's opener
LUANDA (Angola) - Jeunesse Sportive Kairouanaise remain adamant that they can cause the biggest surprise in Friday's first FINAL FOUR matchup against reigning champions Association Sportive of Sale.
Four months ago, the Tunisians lost to the Moroccans 77-70 in Sale, and as a result, they finished second in Group A.
However, what happened in the ELITE 8 knock out stages was something that JS Kairouan insist has kept them confident for the Last Four showdown in the Angolan capital of Luanda.
That 142-140 win on aggregate against Tunisian champions and ABL-title-chaser Etoile Sportive Rades not only speaks volumes about their ambition in the competition but it also serves as a morale booster for the remainder of the competition.
"We still believe we can win and advance to the Championship Game on Sunday," JS Kairouan head coach Riad Ben Abdallah said during Thursday's press conference.
Acknowledging AS Sale's potential, the Tunisians will do everything in their power to succeed. "My players are highly-motivated. We have a mix of young, veteran and a good set of import players," Abddallah noted.
Meanwhile, AS Sale head coach Zeljko Zecevic praised JS Kairouan's tenacity, but he explained that the Moroccans are desperate to retain their African crown.
"We respect everybody. Right now, we are not thinking about Sunday’s game. Our focus is on Friday night's game against JS Kairouan. In forty minutes of play anything is possible to happen. But what makes us confident is that our team chemistry has been and must continue to be excellent. This team is angry to win."
Both Zecevic and Abdallah can't be blamed for their high levels of confidence. After all, both teams count on some of the best talents on the continent of Africa.
Abdelhakim Zouita and Wayne Arnold, Most Valuable Players from the last two editions of Africa's solo clubs' competition, arrived in Luanda determined to live up to their accolades.
Can Mr. double-double Malick Nguirane inspire JS Kairouan in the FINAL-FOUR's semifinal?
Senegal's Malick Nguirane - the only player in the competition - with four double-doubles has been fundamental for JS Kairouan, and is expected to remain as important.
Coming from predominantly muslim countries, most players from AS Sale and JS Kairouan teams are currently under Ramadan.
It's a tough situation to be in, but this doesn't serve as an excuse, both coaches agreed.