Whoa, can Team Belgium’s chances against France tonight really be as bad as the bookmakers insist?

OK, so a Belgium victory tonight in Pau would indeed be considered “the shock of the summer” and perhaps the Belgians’ win over Les Bleus required a “nearly perfect game,” but come on! What does a team need to do to impress the public at-large in generally and the punters specifically?

France is currently (because at this rate these lines might tip even further within the next five, six hours) getting 1/20 odds to take the final match of the Eurobasket Additional Qualifying Round and is an incredible 15-point favorite at Euroleague/BallinEurope.com sponsor Sporting Bet. According to that bookmaker’s lines, an 80-65 blowout is expected.


While it could be said that the boomeranging visits to US doctors by Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum have hurt France’s cohesiveness, the truth is the team has had to resort to only three different starting lineups in five games while their studs have managed to make All Tournament Team-level contributions anyway; plus, Florent Pietrus, Boris Diaw, and Ronny Turiaf – a top-quality nucleus for any international team – have played together all August.

Inexplicably, however, save for a single 20-point win against Italy in Pau, Team France has been notably underwhelming in this tournament.

In early August, France gave up first quarter, halftime and late-game leads against Italy, needing overtime to win. Finland was allowed to shoot at will in the final, “meaningless” game of AQR pool play, with the result a nothing-to-be-proud-of loss to France. Finally, against Belgium on Thursday, France’s defense fell asleep at the end of both halves to cost Les Blues a serious halftime advantage on one end and the game on the other.

Meanwhile, the breathtaking 102-79 Belgian blowout of Bosnia & Herzegovina has sent this under-the-radar team into overdrive. Belgium was able to keep pace with France in the smaller game, outdoing or equalling Les Blues in turnovers, steals, and blocked shots while shooting a good-enough 8-of-22 from three; Ilunga Mbenga was impressive on the offense glass against the lauded French trio.

Guess what? Axel Hervelle (16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds per game in this tournament), Christophe Beghin (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and the rest of these guys can play!

France has surprised one way or another at the sportsbook in this tournament, but if Belgium is really held to Sporting Bet’s 15-point line, *that* would be at least a mildly electrifying summer event.

SportingBet.com has about a dozen betting possibilities available for tonight’s France v. Belgium Eurobasket 2009 Additional Qualifying Round game. Click on the logo or banner at right for more information. Best of luck to everybody!

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