The reasons why Czech Republic can return to the top of the podium or Italy will make history
KAUNAS (FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2018) - Czech Republic and Italy will contest the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2018 Final and this is why Czech Republic can return to the top of the podium or Italy will make history.
The two teams are well-matched in what promises to be a thrilling encounter, with the Czechs looking to repeat the gold medal of 2015 in their fourth Final in six years, while Italy will be hoping to gain their first-ever gold at this level in their first Final since 2012.
CZE - Energetic defense capable of shutting teams down
The Czech defense has been awe-inspiring at times, holding Turkey without a field goal for the entire third quarter in the Semi-Final standing out as a highlight. They also mounted their Group Phase comebacks against France and Turkey by holding their opponents to scoring droughts that lasted at least six minutes in both matches. The Italians actually average fewer points conceded per game, although their number is boosted by some weak opposition.
CZE - Focus on looking after the ball
Czech Republic have averaged the fewest turnovers per game during the tournament, with Katerina Zeithammerova running a very steady ship from her position as the starting playmaker. They will have to be careful against an Italian team that has forced the second-highest number of steals in Kaunas, with Giulia Natali and Ilaria Panzera both averaging three per game. Panzera has been profligate on the other end, however, giving the ball away more than three times per game, and her team will need to be careful not to grant the Czechs with easy opportunities to run and score on the fast break.
CZE - Experienced bench knows how to handle the big games
Head coach Richard Fousek was at the helm when his country claimed gold in Matosinhos in 2015, and he was also the play-caller during the silver-medal campaigns in 2013 and 2014. He has much of the same staff around him that supported him during those tournaments, so there will be a comforting familiarity when the pressure builds. Italian coach Giovanni Lucchesi is no rookie himself, with a long association with the federation that has seen him lead teams to bronze in 2015 and silver back in 2008.
ITA - Players who have already experienced high-pressure matches
While the Czech coaching staff may bring an edge, the Italian players on the court will have their own advantage in high-pressure situations, with the strong core of the team (Natali, Panzera, Caterina Gilli and Martina Spinelli) having already been on the podium with bronze last year in Bourges, as well as having taken part in this year’s U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup, where Italy finished 5th.
ITA - Size may be too much for Czech Republic to handle
Gilli was sensational in the Semi-Final win over Spain, racking up a huge double-double of 25 points and 17 rebounds. The Czechs have not really had to deal with such great size during their run to the Final, and Panzera and Spinelli offer great support in the frontcourt, while Meriem Nasraoui made a difference in the third quarter against Spain and possesses the nous to confound the Czech defensive schemes. Both teams have rebounded the ball well, with Gilli ranking third overall but behind Czech Republic’s Monika Fucikova, who ranks second with nearly 10 rebounds per game.
ITA - Might simply score too much for Czech Republic to keep pace
Italy have been the second-highest scorers in the tournament, and they have some great shooters who have led the team to the second-highest shooting percentage from behind the arc. In contrast, only three teams have shot worse from long distance than the Czechs, who rank a pedestrian ninth overall. Nasraoui is the only player from either team to rank in the top 10 in points.
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