The quarter finals of EuroBasket 2022 are here and the action gets under way on Tuesday as Finland look to keep the dream alive against perennial contenders Spain
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
Spain (5-1) suffered their lone loss of the competition at the hands of Belgium but didn’t really impress through their group wins over Turkey, Montenegro, Georgia, and Bulgaria, until their last 16 game win over Lithuania where coach Sergio Scariolo called a brilliant game from the sideline.
Finland (4-2) overcame a stubborn challenge from Croatia in the last 16 to get here following victories over Poland, Netherlands, and Czech Republic with defeats to Israel and Serbia..
Need to know
Talk about a clash of context. Spain are playing in their 21st consecutive quarter final at EuroBasket, having last failed to reach this stage in 1977. Finland, by contrast, are in the last 8 for the first time since 1967. Spain have won the championship three times, all since 2009, and have medalled at 12 editions of EuroBasket in total including all of the last six tournaments. Finland have never done better than that sixth place finish (Finnish?) in 1967.
Yet there’s a lot of reason to believe Finland can pull this one off. In Lauri Markkanen they have a generational talent who has transformed Finnish basketball and has proven a threat in every aspect of the game. He went for 43 points and 9 rebounds in that win over Croatia and, crucially, had no turnovers. In Sasu Salin and Edon Maxhuni they have good alternative shooting options to take some of the pressure off him. This means that while they ride or die with Lauri, simply shutting him down won’t be sufficient for Spain.
Spain brought in arguably their weakest roster to EuroBasket this century and certainly the side with the lowest expectations coming into this competition in a long time. There’s no single superstar they lean on but Scariolo has turned that to his advantage and ensured there’s no single point of failure either. Simply shutting down Lorenzo Brown won’t be enough for Finland to take the W in this one. Spain has many ways to hurt the Finns.
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None of the teams that own wins over either of these sides are still in the tournament. Belgium fell to Slovenia on Saturday, Serbia had a total meltdown on Sunday against Italy, and Israel didn’t even make it to the knockout stages.
For Finland, this really is an achievement but their mentality has been great considering how easy it would be for veterans like Petteri Koponen (34), Shawn Huff (38), or Sasu Salin (31) to feel the job was done. Markkanen has inspired belief in their ageing bones and it shows.
Spain meanwhile have got quite the curiosity in Brown. He’s rather different to their usual naturalised options of the recent past. Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka both brought bulk and, of course, NBA calibre experience with them into the roster. Scariolo clearly felt that the enigmatic Brown was the type of ball handling shooter he needed to put a fire up the backsides of his relatively young roster for this tournament.
What do the bookies say?
Spain are favoured slightly more than I’d expect but only slightly at 2/5 while Finland are priced at 12/5. The point spread favours Spain as -6.5 favourites.
What do we say?
Every emotional fibre in my being wants to say Finland because of the narrative here. Markkamania has run wild when Finland have needed it most in this tournament but it’s just too hard to see that being enough in this match-up. What Spain lack in superstars they make up for in variety and organisation. I just see the rest of the Finnish team being able to provide quite enough support to Markkanen to get them over the line but, as a writer and a man fond of romance, I’d be delighted to be wrong. Nothing against Spain at all, I just love a good fairytale.
Spain to win and cover.