The quarter finals of EuroBasket 2022 are here and Wednesday begins with France taking on Italy
All games from now on are at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany
17.15 CEST, 16.15 BST, 11.15 EST, 08.15 PST
How they got here
France (4-2) overcame a stiffer than expected challenge from Turkey in the last 16 following wins over Lithuania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Hungary in the group phase along with losses to Germany and Slovenia.
Italy (4-2) have been very Italy at this tournament, which means a mix of brilliance and bizarre but they’ve had more of the former. Despite group defeats to Ukraine and Greece, they own wins over Croatia, Estonia, Great Britain, and, most importantly, that last 16 win over pre-tournament favourites Serbia.
Need to know
Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco is a crazy person in the best way and clearly an inspiration to his player. In Simone Fontecchio they have a serious shooter who, along with Niccolo Melli, Marco Spissu, and Stefano Tonut has formed the offensive core for this side, as predicted by Alex Proshuta well before the tournament began. If Italy can get hot from deep, there’s nobody they can’t beat and that, above all else, is very Italy.
France have underperformed largely in this tournament but that win over Lithuania and their close battle with Slovenia will have steeled them although they clearly underestimated the test that Turkey would provide. It’s unlikely that Vincent Collet will make the same mistake twice.
The big battle to watch out for here is Melli vs Rudy Gobert. Melli didn’t outperform Nikola Jokic in the last game but he made sure he didn’t lose it by too much, and frankly was at least Jokic’s equal in the second half of the win over Serbia. He’ll need to deliver a similar performance against Gobert for Italy to advance.
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France famously won a EuroBasket they weren’t expected to win in 2013 while they lost one they were expected to win in 2015. No matter the talent level, this is an awfully difficult team to read. Collet’s record in big games has improved somewhat in recent years, particularly after securing the silver medal last year’s Olympics but those questions still haven’t gone away.
Italy are remarkably consistent at making the quarter finals of EuroBasket, having reached this stage in each of the last four editions but you’ve got to go all the way back to 2003 for the last time they made it to the semi-finals. It’s a big ask to end that run on Wednesday. Thursday however is Pozzecco’s 50th birthday so it would make for a hell of an early present.
What do the bookies say?
It’s fairly tight with France as 12/25 favourites and Italy priced at 19/10. France are favoured by -5.5 on the point spread.
What do we say?
It’s asking an awful lot for Italy to repeat their stunning performance from Sunday but if any team has the mental capacity to do so, it’s Pozzecco’s lot. France seem built for big games but I’m not sure that will be enough in what is sure to be an emotional early game.
I’m taking the upset, Italy to win.