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France face difficult task of beating Greece to correct failed start
HELSINKI (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Every team has played one game at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, and now after alternating days off, the time has come for all four groups to take the floor on the same day with a couple of tantalizing match-ups awaiting fans around the continent.
France came into FIBA EuroBasket 2017 as a threat to grab the crown from reigning champions Spain. But the opening act of France's script didn't go as planned with Group A hosts Finland doing their best David impression to France's Goliath. Now Les Bleus face the tall task of needing to beat a Greece side that rolled past Iceland in their opener if they want to avoid dropping to 0-2. The Greeks, for their part, showed they should be considered a real contender. There is also some big game history between these teams as Greece knocked off the French in the Semi-Finals en route to the 2005 title. France then repaid the favor, upending Greece in the 2011 Quarter-Finals.
The fans in Helsinki will actually get another treat on Saturday with their Susijengi taking on Slovenia to finish off the night. Finland young star Lauri Markkanen lived up to his billing in the opening overtime win over France but the Finns will have their hands full with the retiring Goran Dragic, who went for 30 points in Slovenia's win over Poland, and 18-year-old prodigy Luka Doncic, who can now relax a bit after making his major international tournament debut. The other Group A game is Poland playing Iceland in a battle of the 0-1 teams, in their first-ever match-up in the competition.
There will be drama in Istanbul as well as Serbia fought off a valiant effort by Latvia in their Group D opener but next face a Russia side that doused the dreams of group hosts Turkey in their opener. Serbia needed a magical showing of 30 points from Bogdan Bodgandovic to beat Latvia, while Aleksei Shved and Timofey Mozgov combined for 42 points in helping Russia past Turkey. These two teams met in the Quarter-Finals in 2009 and 2011 with Serbia prevailing in 2009 and Russia winning two years later.
Belgium want to build on their big opening triumph over Great Britain in Group D, but Latvia will be a major test as Kristaps Porzingis and Co. gave Serbia all they could handle before losing late. The final game in Group D is Great Britain searching for their first win against hosts Turkey.
The top billing in Group B in Tel Aviv has Georgia versus Germany in a showdown of first day winners - also the first time these teams have played in the competition. Georgia must find a way to slow down Germany's star playmaker Dennis Schroder while the Germans will have struggles dealing with the depth of big men for Georgia, including Tornike Shengelia.
Group B hosts Israel and Lithuania meanwhile will both be looking for their first victory. The Lithuanians really need a win if they plan on finishing near the top of the group standings following their loss to Georgia. The other game in Tel Aviv has Italy attempting to move to 2-0 while Ukraine dropped their first game.
In Group C in Cluj-Napoca, reigning champions Spain aim to avoid any letdown against Czech Republic in a showdown of first game winners. Saturday in Romania will also see Montenegro and Hungary play for the first time in tournament history with one team guaranteed their first win in the group. Hosts Romania's next attempt at victory number one will come against Croatia's dynamic duo of Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric.