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Pride on the line: Will Serbia hold off Georgia, Israel to qualify in Group L?
MUNICH (Germany) - The last remaining FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 berth in Group L will keep basketball fans in Serbia, Georgia and Israel on the edge of their seats until the very end of the European Qualifiers.
Although the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 runners-up Serbia have the golden ticket within reach, they will still have to hold their ground against the outside challenges from their direct rivals to join the already qualified Germany and Greece.
Counting on a pair of Serbian defeats in the February window for a chance to leapfrog the frontrunners for third place, Georgia and Israel may still have a role to play in the campaign.
Gameday 11 (Thursday, February 21)
Gameday 12 (Sunday, February 24)
Qualified: Greece, Germany
Can still qualify:
Serbia would secure a spot in the World Cup with any win but could qualify with two defeats if Georgia and Israel suffer at least one loss each. Serbia must not lose by more than 21 points against Israel if they are to avoid elimination in a possible three-way tie scenario with Georgia and Israel at 6-6.
Georgia would secure a spot in the World Cup with two wins, but only if Serbia lose twice.
Israel would secure a spot in the World Cup with two wins if Serbia and Georgia both lose twice. If Serbia lose twice and Georgia win once, Israel would have to beat Serbia by 22 points or more to qualify.
Can no longer qualify: Estonia
What do the experts think?
Simas Baranauskas and Igor Curkovic have closely followed the qualification process ever since the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Pre-Qualifiers, keeping you close to the action with the Live Blog. Dave Hein handed you features from all over Europe and Jeff Taylor is the voice behind international basketball, calling the games for LiveBasketball.tv.
Simas Baranauskas: You can trust Serbia to get the job done and I don't feel like I even need to justify that statement. You know it, we know it and they know it too. If you wanted to play devil's advocate, you could point to Estonia's win over Serbia in the FIBA EuroBasket 2013 Qualifiers (yes, that's a thing!) or the recent Serbian defeats to Israel and Greece, but that would be futile, wouldn't it? I'd predict two double-digit wins for Aleksandar Djordjevic's side to finish off the qualification campaign in style.
Igor Curkovic: Serbia. No-brainer. They could even qualify with a couple of defeats, but I'd be surprised if they did not end up with a couple of wins at the end of the campaign. Come on, we're talking about 2014 World Cup runners-up and 2016 Summer Olympics silver-medalists here... Serbia will not only advance from Group L, but will end up with another set of medals around their necks in China this summer - you heard it here first, so think of me when you see them on the podium on September 15.
David Hein: Serbia not making it through would be one of the biggest shocks in basketball history. Not only would they lose at Estonia but they would also have to lose a second time to Israel - and that coming at Pionir. Sorry Georgia and Israel - this one is not happening. Not even if Milos Teodosic wasn’t playing. Making this one even more unrealistic is Georgia would need to win at Greece against a team fighting to stay atop the group. Oh, and Israel would need a 22-point victory over Serbia to get the tiebreaker over the Serbs and Georgia if all three are tied at 6-6. Serbian fans can definitely start making plans for China 2019.
Jeff Taylor: Serbia. Before anyone dismisses Estonia and says they have no chance to beat Serbia, just remember what happened in Tallinn back on September 8, 2012. Estonia won that FIBA EuroBasket 2013 Qualifier, 88-81. The game underlined how the Baltic team can be a tough nut to crack at home. They get up for big games. Serbia know this is a contest that they really have win to clinch a place in the World Cup, so expect them to hit the court breathing fire and to take care of business. All bets are off in the next game against Israel, though, even with the game being played in Belgrade. Israel won the first encounter, 83-74, and that young team that has been getting experience with every game in the European Qualifiers will be fired up.