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Czechs go into high gear with Satoransky, Vesely as Shved makes Russia return
PARDUBICE (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - A sensational start to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers has the Ronen Ginzburg-coached Czech Republic quietly dreaming big, but the stage is now set for the Czechs to show they really mean business.
Back in national team uniform, Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely are ready to lead the energized Czechs into battle against the Aleksei Shved-led Russia on Thursday to get the Second Round underway in a pivotal duel for their China aspirations.
The absence of the two stars did not hold Czech Republic back in the First Round. In fact, they turned in the sixth-best record in the European Qualifiers, breezing past Bulgaria, Finland and Iceland with a 5-1 mark.
The star of Tomas Satoransky shone last shone for the Czechs at the FIBA EuroBasket 2017
But the arrival of Satoransky and Vesely still gives the Czechs an extra gear that will certainly come in handy against higher-profile opponents in Russia and then the reinforced Bosnia and Herzegovina a few days later.
"It's great for the national team. With Tomas Satoransky, Jan Vesely and hopefully Ondrej Balvin, we will have our best players. But of course, it's not just about these three. It is important that other players play and work well too," Ginzburg said looking ahead of the Russia clash.
The presence of all of the stars and the team's strong play of late is proving to be a big pull in Pardubice, with the Czechs expecting a record attendance at the Tipsport Arena.
"Every time we play together [with Satoransky] and can help the team, it's fantastic," Vesely offered. "It's a different type of basketball, a different system, a different group of guys than I'm used to during the season and I'm ready for any role the coach gives me. I'll take it. We have a big opportunity."
However, Czech Republic boss Ronen Ginzburg will not be the only one with new weapons in his arsenal, with FIBA EuroBasket 2017 top scorer Shved returning to the Russian squad for the first time since placing fourth with Russia in Istanbul.
The team's playcaller Sergey Bazarevich was understandably happy to have his star back, but did show some caution in regards to expectations.
"Shved is the best player in Europe. The outlook is really great [with him back], but it requires work. The difficulty is that he has not played with the team for a year," he said while stressing the importance of the game on the road in Czech Republic.
"We must be prepared for the game tactically. We need to give the players an opportunity to understand whom we will play against."
Russia did not enjoy as much success in the First Round as their Czech counterparts, having carried over a 3-3 record following defeats to France and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Currently third in the standings, Bazarevich and his men have to stay mindful of their new Group K opponents, Finland and Bulgaria, both of whom are hot on their heels.
It's too early in the Second Round to talk about Czech Republic securing qualification but, both literally and figuratively, their route to China 2019 goes through Russia and a positive result in Pardubice could go a long way to getting them there.