It’s a rivalry that’s been bubbling for years. Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Boris Diaw lead France against Spain’s Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, and the bearded might of Sergio Rodriguez. Only one will advance to the final of EuroBasket 2013.

Whatever we thought of Spain before the quarter finals was quickly swept aside on Wednesday. They didn’t beat Serbia; they ignored their very presence on the court. Spain played like their roster looked on paper. Deep in the back court, weapons everywhere, and with one of the most imposing presences in the world at center. The Serbs were sent packing in an utterly humiliating 90-60 defeat. France for their part stayed largely to type in the quarter final. The talent was there to see, they picked up the win, but they left the court with questions still abounding. One stood out above all others. Why do they look so beatable?

The stats certainly don’t paint the French as an easy side to conquer. They lead the tournament offensively and have a variety of options, with Parker, Batman, and Alexis Ajinca all proving tough match-ups. Parker leads EuroBasket in scoring but can disappear for minutes at a time. This is unlikely to be an issue today, not against a team France has lost twice to in major tournaments over the past two years. Normally I shun the eyeball test but it’s near impossible to ignore when France play. For all the things they do right, they always look like they need to find another gear.

The most consistent element of this match-up promises to be decisive. Even when their scoring has been off, Spain have been consistent on defence. If any team can corral France, it’s the Spaniards. Scoring will be high but Spain have enough to take the win. Spain to advance.

World Cup spot

Italy and Ukraine clash in Friday’s first game with a place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup at stake. This is a huge game for both sides as neither will want to see Serbia in the match-up for the final spot. Win today and you are on the plane to Spain. Ukraine fought gamely against Croatia and won’t suffer much inside against the Italians. The options for Italy on offence look to be key here. Gigi Datome and Marco Belinelli have been the engines for Italy throughout this tournament and the duo should have enough to pull through. Italy to win.

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