What’s this? An actual basketball piece. It’s been a week but Emmet Ryan needed time. We’re going to break down the runers and riders in Group C now…and then do Group D tomorrow morning with a hangover
Venue: Arena Zagreb
Is Oguz Savas playing here?: No
Croatia are your hosts and they are the favourites to take top spot in a group that has a clear top three, a probable clear fourth, and two teams nobody really expects to do much of anything. Slovenia and Greece will be utterly delighted to land in this group and FYR Macedonia will surely be happy to have avoided the absolute death trap that is Group B. Georgia will think they have a shot but the Netherlands are really here just to make up the numbers.
The most interesting story here has to be Greece who had, by their lofty standards, a nightmare in Slovenia 2013. Now they have a situation where they will be all but a lock to ensure a winnable game in the first knockout stage irrespective of how they perform in the early going. That’s all they can really ask for and they got it with ease.
What the bookies think
It’s a total toss up between Greece (6/5) and Croatia (5/4) on most markets which leaves Slovenia at the most wonderfully tempting price of 4/1. I’m not mad about Slovenia winning this group but anything longer than 7/2 offers value, even if it is only a smidgen more. There is a big drop to FYR Macedonia at 20/1 and Georgia at 40/1 while the Dutch are, to nobody’s surprise, the rank outsiders at 100/1.
There are three absolute beauties in this group and I’m going to take the last of them. Greece vs Slovenia on 9 September will have massive implications for the second round and pits two teams with contrasting enough styles against one another to make this more than interesting. The odds are the loser of this game comes in third and gets a tougher game in the knockout phase but will also be a side no second place team wants to see in Lille. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Your four teams to progress are…
The least surprising group in the competition. If Georgia beat FYR Macedonia, everything is in play but realistically the latter will get the two wins it needs against the weaker pair of sides in this group and book its ticket to Lille. The top three are listed in the ranking I expect them to get which isn’t great news if you are a Slovenia fan but, hey, whoever plays you won’t want to see you.