Preview: Final game day of FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers
MUNICH (FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers) – There are eight Final Round tickets remaining on what is shaping up to be a hugely exciting last day of the FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers.
We look at who is still in with a chance of joining hosts Czech Republic, France, Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine in Prague and Hradec Kralove next year.
While unbeaten Slovenia have already stamped their pass, they haven't yet secured top spot as the fans in Riga prepare to cheer for local favourites Latvia who will advance to the Final Round with a victory. If they can avenge their sizeable 69-51 defeat on Slovenian soil with a big win of their own, they may even take pole position, while a defeat would leave them 2-2 and at the mercy of the calculators which will determine the best six runners-up.
With Les Bleues already crowned Group winners and both Netherlands and Estonia having seen their own hopes fade, it's only Croatia who can potentially join France in the Final Round.
But, a tough challenge lies in wait for Braslav Turic and his team who must win on the road in Clermont-Ferrand against the unbeaten group leaders if they are to stand any chance of squeezing out a ticket. Even then, they would not be guaranteed a spot with a 2-2 record and they might pay the price for that agonising loss to the Dutch early in the campaign.
It's a very similar story in Group C for Croatia's neighbours Montenegro who might end up being punished for a bad night in Manchester against the now eliminated Great Britain. The Montenegro side welcomes the unbeaten and already qualified Italy to their home floor and knowing that only a win is going to give them a chance of clutching a precious ticket. They will need a big game from the likes of Angelica Robinson and even if they get it done, they must sit tight and wait for the other results to be filed.
Ukraine have taken care of business already after finishing the job last Saturday against the eliminated Germany.
However, the main reason for having already progressed was their exhilarating 78-75 success against Serbia back in February. Now the defending EuroBasket Women champions will be intent on revenge when they entertain Ukraine and are also eyeing up top spot in the Group, which Serbia can achieve with a four-point victory. Another narrow loss for Serbia and a 2-2 record would probably not prove to be fatal, since they look well-placed to still progress in that scenario after massive triumphs against Germany.
While Portugal and Iceland are already eliminated, their clash could impact on Hungary who might end up paying the price for their shock defeat in Reykjavik. To be sure of making it to Czech Republic next summer, they need to beat Slovak Republic in a huge and highly anticipated derby clash – having won a pulsating first meeting by a single point. If they were to lose, then their prospects may well hinge on what happens between the two bottom teams – as runners-up don't carry wins against nations who finish fourth in each group. Slovak Republic's only loss so far was that narrow reverse against Hungary and so it looks decent for Maros Kovacik and his team who know a victory will see them through and even another defeat and 2-2 record may be enough. Although they will want to make sure by recording a triumph in Piestany.
With Bulgaria and Switzerland not in contention, it's all about the game in Kursk between unbeaten hosts Russia and their visitors Greece who lost to their rivals by a point in their first meeting. Russia are safely into the Final Round already, with a two-point win for Greece giving them top spot and cement their place as well.
Providing Greece don't implode; they are well placed to still go through in second place after massive wins against Bulgaria who are favourites to finish third.
Belgium can finish as group winners and make a return to the Final Round for the first time since 2007 if they can beat Poland, or avoid a mammoth defeat against the same opponent, who now need a near miracle. Belarus have finished their allotted games and will hope their 2-2 record will be sufficient to see them reach the big show next June.
Turkey have been confirmed as the group winners and punched their ticket, while Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina have seen their opportunities dissolved. Israel are runners-up and will carry a 2-2 record into the number-crunching exercise to see who is the best-placed runners-up regardless of what happens in their game against Bosnia and Herzegovina or Turkey against Romania.
Spain have qualified as Group winners after not losing a game, while Finland have no chance remaining. They might also spoil the chances of Sweden as they step out in Lulea for a derby clash, with the home team needing a win – and probably a huge one if they are to make it to the Final Round.