CARACAS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Angola’s campaign for a sixth consecutive Olympics begins at 16:30 local time on Monday against Eurobasket surprise packet the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD).
With New Zealand missing key players the winner of this game is likely to take first place in Group D, and MKD guard Vlado Ilievski believes his team must alter its aggressive style to succeed in its first global tournament.
“I think (Angola’s) strength is penetrating, going to the rim and going for the fast break, so stopping this will be our first goal,” Ilievski said.
“They run, they’re athletic, but I don’t think they have the technical skills the European teams have, so we definitely have to be smart, calm them down and make their strengths be put to the side.”
When it comes to the halfcourt, stopping the penetration of naturalised MKD guard Bo McCalebb is vital for Angola, but veteran Joaquim Gomes isn’t buying the ‘no Bo, no MKD’ theory.
“He has some weapons but we don’t think it is one specific player we need to stop,” he said.
“With the Macedonian team everyone has to take a step forward to make the team achieve and it is the same for us.”
The tournament opens with Korea hoping to cause an upset over European powerhouse Russia at 11:00.
Korean point guard Yang Donggeun penetrated at will for 17 points in last year’s FIBA Asia Championship semi-final despite a badly injured ankle, and his teammates must make the most of the shots he creates to trouble Russia.
With Andrey Kirilenko, Victor Khryapa, Timofey Mozgov and Alexander Kaun in the frontline, look for the European bronze medallists to power the ball inside and force their opponents to fire from long range.
Russia’s average height of 2.02m is more than seven centimetres taller than Korea, while the third team in the group, Dominican Republic, average 1.98m.