After booking their places in next year’s FIBA World Cup yesterday, Lithuania and Croatia have their eyes on a more immediate prize. A place in the final of EuroBasket 2013 is up for grabs. Who will take it?

The first semi final of EuroBasket 2013 may lack the star power of Spain vs France but it promises to deliver plenty of excitement on Friday afternoon. There are battles everywhere and both sides have been waiting a long time to play in the final of Europe’s premier international competition. Lithuania is seeking to make it back to the final for the first time since 2003, when they beat Spain in the final. Croatia has never been past the semi-final round since gaining independence.

Guard play will be crucial in this game. Bojan Bogdanovic is the tournament’s second leading scorer, at 17.1 points per game, and Jonas Maciulis faces a tough match-up with the Fenerbahce man. Maciulis will likely be forced to focus on defence and defer to Mantas Kalneitis to impact on the offensive end. Defensively these are both impressive outfits with neither side giving up points easy. The match-up is also even on the inside, with Croatia ranking first and Lithuania third in rebounds for the tournament.

Consistency is going to be the deciding factor in this game. Lithuania have come back well in the business end of the tournament, rolling to four victories in a row after an up and down opening round. Croatia have a tournament leading eight straight wins but have made hard work of almost all of them. The glass looks to be an area where one team can break out. While neither team holds a significant edge in rebounding success or indeed talent on the inside, if one side can establish a presence early on the boards it could set the tone for the game.

As a collective unit Lithuania looks more organised but in terms of individual breakout options, the Croats appear to have the edge. If this game isn’t still in the balance going into the final minute I’ll be surprised. Still, drama and all, Croatia to win.

And…

The line-ups for the Under 18 All Star game, which takes place at 12.00 CET on Saturday, have been announced.Finnish coach Jari Nykanen and Austria’s Andreas Kaineder will coach the Blue team while Slovenia’s Borut Fijavz teams up with Bulgaria’s Ludmil Hadjisotoriv to coach the White team.

Blue team roster: Andrej Magdevski, Kenan Sipahi, Ricardas Verbickas, Dogukan Sanli, Ivars Zvigurs, Domagoj Bosnjak, Yevgen Sakhniuk, Damian Jeszke, Nikola Jokic, Anzejs Pasecniks, and Milovan Draskovic.

White team roster: Rebec Matic, Julian Andrea Gualtieri, Agusti Sans, Alexander Martynov, Alberto Abalde, Axel Bouteille, Rade Zagorac, Vincent Kesteloot, Metecan Birsen, Kerem Kanter, Prokop Slanina, and Georgios Diamantakos

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