|Turkey's Semih Erden and his teammates have had a rollercoaster ride in the Qualification Round, but still hold their own destiny |
The Qualification Round for next year's EuroBasket has been as exciting and challenging as most expected.
Even heavyweights like Serbia, the silver-medal winners in 2009 and 2010 World Championship silver medalists Turkey have found the going tough.
Israel, who have all but clinched their spot for the EuroBasket with six wins and three defeats, have had an uncomfortable ride this summer.
Arik Shivek's side lost its first two games, falling at Montenegro and then at home to Estonia, yet rebounded with enough victories to effectively put them in Slovenia next year.
Only an extraordinary defeat of 89 points or more at Serbia on Tuesday night, the last for the Qualification Round games, would keep the Israelis from playing at a EuroBasket for the first time since the event was held in Rome in 1991, where there were only eight teams in the Final Round.
Serbia and Turkey, meanwhile, need to win on Tuesday (Turkey are at home to the Czech Republic) to be absolutely sure of competing at next year's EuroBasket.
Bogdan Tanjevic, the Turkey coach, admitted after his side's 79-69 grind-it-out win at Portugal: "We are psychologically tired and worried about the next game."
And that's for good reason because the Czechs beat them in the first meeting by 18 points.
Serbia Face Decisive Game Against Israel
With their place in Slovenia virtually secure, one might think the Israelis could relax mentally.
But the win/loss percentage has an effect on the rankings for next year's tournament so Israel are thinking about only one thing in Belgrade.
"We can win in Serbia, even though this game has become really significant for them," Israel's Lior Eliyahu said.
"They will hit the ground running and it won't be easy to play there. Nevertheless, we are entering the game with the goal of winning it."
For Serbia (5-4), there are a few scenarios that can unfold.
If they win against Israel, they're going to Slovenia next year.
If they lose, and Estonia beat Iceland, then Serbia are eliminated and Estonia advance to the Final Round.
If Serbia and Estonia lose, then Serbia will have to wait and see if they are among the four best third-place teams to advance to Slovenia.
The Blues are unlikely to have sharpshooter Marko Keselj and defensive juggernaut Ivan Paunic because of injuries, while point guard Milos Teodosic is expected to be available.
Serbia head coach Dusan Ivkovic isn't interested in tie-breakers.
"We have prepared with only one objective," he said, "to win against Israel.
"You need to be mentally ready, get the triumph and fulfill the main goal, to qualify for the EuroBasket.
"Israel have a very good basketball team and are especially dangerous in transition. They run well ... The main creators of such games are (Alex) Tyus, and (Yogev) Ohayon.
"We must stop them, and also find a balance in our attacking game, to have a good shot selection."
Shivek probably slept much better on Monday night than Ivkovic.
The Israelis won the first meeting on 28 August, 89-76.
"We are in a good position, Shivek said, "but we want to end the campaign in a good way.
"We are going to face a team in trouble, but this is a good team with a decorated coach.
"We will need to cope with the pressure and considering their situation, it is going to be a real sporting battle."
Poised to take advantage of a Serbia slip in Group A are Estonia (5-4), the team that has not only won in Israel but beaten the Serbians in Tallinn.
They go up against Iceland in their last Qualification Round on Tuesday night.
|Orhan Haciyeva has been vital for Azerbaijan, who are only one win away from qualifying to next year's EuroBasket|
In The Hunt For One Of The Last Five Tickets
Also still in the hunt for places at the EuroBasket are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia and Sweden.
The Austrians are 3-4 in Group C and assured of finishing third, but it remains to be seen if they will be among the four best third-place teams.
If any record does not do justice to a team's performances, it's that of the Austrians.
They could very easily be 5-2 heading into their clash with Croatia.
"We believe in our chances," Austria coach Nedeljko Asceric said.
"We have to play courageously. My players will give their all (at Croatia), I am convinced."
Bulgaria (4-4), Azerbaijan (4-3) and Sweden (3-4) are all in Group B and each have a chance of finishing second.
Azerbaijan play at group winners Germany and Sweden are playing in Luxembourg.
Sweden coach Brad Dean expects Germany to do his team a favor.
Should Germany win, and Sweden win, the Swedes will finish second as they have a better goal differential in their games with Bulgaria and Azerbaijan.
"Germany is playing a televised game at home in a crowded arena and will have their sponsors there," Dean said.
"In addition, they are playing to go undefeated through qualifying and thus get a more favorable ranking before the draw of the EuroBasket.
"On top of all this, they have Svetislav Pesic as a coach. In such a situation, there is no coach I'd rather have as a coach for Germany than Svetislav Pesic."
Latvia (4-3) will seal their place at the EuroBasket with a Group D victory at Romania, though, a defeat by a small margin would also likely be good enough for them to play in the Final Round as one of the best third-place teams.
In Group E, Belgium can seal their place at the EuroBasket with a victory at Albania. Otherwise, they would hope to claim a spot as one of the four best third-place teams.