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History in the making for Australia and Czech Republic
SHANGHAI (China) - No matter who wins this Quarter-Finals duel, the crowd in Shanghai will have witnessed history by the time the game ends, because it will be a first for these two to reach the Semi-Finals of a FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Australia are in their 12th World Cup appearance, and they haven't had a single misstep yet, sweeping their way to the Quarter-Finals for the first time since 1994. Powered by their NBA experience with Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes and Matthew Dellavedova, the Boomers are one step away from the best-ever finish. They were fifth in 1982 and 1994.
Czech Republic are making their debut at the world's summit, but they don't want their dream to end now that they are two wins away from stepping on the podium. Czechs have played eye-pleasing basketball since day one, but they are also the only 3-2 team among the last eight.
Team Overview Australia: Perfect. The Boomers were 3-0 in the First Round, then 2-0 in the Second Round, and both of those have some added value since they were achieved through the Group of Death and a tough crossroad intersection with France and the Dominican Republic. Australia have done it in style, too. A lot of dribble-hand-off plays, a lot of cutting, a lot of screen-the-screener motions - when they get it going, they look unbeatable.
Team Overview Czech Republic: Czech Republic are the upset package in Shanghai. A lot of people saw them stuck in the First Round, in a group with Turkey and USA, especially after Team USA was forced to work overtime against Turkey. But, Czech Republic had other ideas, sending Turkey to Classification Round 17-32, then ending the World Cup dreams of Brazil and Greece in the Second Round. Out of nowhere, Czech Republic are the Cinderella story here in China, and with Tomas Satoransky getting so much help from Ondrej Balvin, Blake Schilb, Vojtech Hruban, Jaromir Bohacik and others, you should definitely check them out.
Key Matchup: Tomas Satoransky v Joe Ingles. Both of them are flirting with the first ever FIBA Basketball World Cup triple-double, and don't be surprised if both of them actually get one in a direct matchup with each other.
Satoransky is the brain of the Czech Republic side, with 15.2 points, 7.4 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game so far, but he was also -18 and -4 in their two defeats in this event, to USA and Greece, respectively.
Ingles is putting up 11.4 points, 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds, but has averaged 32.1 minutes per game . With a lot of muscle on disposal for coach Ronen Ginzburg, Czech Republic will try and take the remaining energy out of Ingles.
X-Factor: Pressure. Andrej Lemanis was asked about the change of the outlook for Australia, who were usually perceived as the underdogs in games like these, but not anymore. Now they have the pressure of expectations, whereas Czech Republic are completely relaxed. And dangerous, directly because of it.
Stats Don't Lie: Assists are pretty much in the DNA of both of these teams, with both of them averaging more than 20 dimes per game. If Australia stop Czech Republic from dropping 20+ dimes, they will be that much closer to reaching the Semi-Finals. Vice versa.
They Said: "When we sacrifice for each other like that, it's a great thing for us. There is no other group of guys I'd rather be out there going to war with than these bunch of mates." - Aron Baynes, Australia
"I know that they are a very good basketball team. My assistant coaches responsible for scouts have told me how well they are playing. There is no fluke that they are in the Quarter-Finals, they absolutely earned their position there, they've got a good mix of inside-outside, they play good defense, they are a tough European basketball nation. It's the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup. If we can't get up for that, then we don't deserve to win, but I'm really confident that we will." - Andrej Lemanis, Australia head coach
"I said it before, the last thing that Tomas is interested in is his points, his stats or anything. He wants to win the game. Of course, he's the head of the team, the leader. But he doesn't care about numbers, he cares about wins, that's what makes him a great player." - Ronen Ginzburg, Czech Republic head coach, talking about Tomas Satoransky
"We've never played against Australia - it's our first time here in the World Cup - so we want to play against them because those are the teams we never face in the FIBA EuroBaskets." - Vojtech Hruban, Czech Republic