In the first semi-final of the day at the 2021 Men’s U23 European Champoinship, Germany put an end to Israel’s unbeaten record in the Championship so far to make their way through to the Gold medal game. 

The high stakes of a place in the final seemed to have rattled the young Israeli team early on as their shooting started a little wayward in the first quarter, hitting at only 29%. Germany took advantage of this, scoring consistently themselves, to open up an eight-point lead. They extended it in the second to go in at half-time up 33-22. Germany went on a 7-0 run early in the third to increase the margin to sixteen points, as Israel continued to struggle on the offensive end. Despite a mini-comeback in the fourth, bringing it back to within five points with 3 minutes to go, the size of the gap proved too much for Israel to overcome, as Germany held their nerve to see out the game, 61-49, and head to their second consecutive U23 Final.

Israel’s Amit Vigoda topped all scorers with 24 points. Germany finished with three players in double figures: Alexander Budde (17), Bastian Kolb (15), and Thomas Reier (15). 

Germany’s Budde said:

“Yesterday we played some good phases and some bad phases. We admit that. But today we fought hard and I think we deserved this win. We had a really good first half, the second half was tough. Israel is a really good team, some really really good players and I think they have a chance for Bronze. We are really happy to have this victory today and tomorrow we hope to gain our revenge on Spain, and have our best game of this tournament.”

Spain vs Turkey in the semi-finals of the Men’s U23 European Championship Photo : Augusto Bizzi

In the second semi-final of the day, Spain cruised into the final defeating current U23 Champions Turkey, 73-39. A tentative start by the Spanish side, who remain undefeated in the tournament, saw Turkey match them as they exchanged baskets throughout the first quarter with Spain only edging it by a single point, 17-16. Spain’s defensive pressure forced Turkey into a number of turnovers throughout the second period as Spain went on a 9-0 run, keeping Turkey scoreless for eight and a half minutes, to give themselves an eight-point lead at half-time. It was a lead which they continued to build on throughout the second half winning the third quarter 19-10, and the fourth 26-9, as Turkey could not find an answer to Spain’s powerful team play, and not helped by Mahmut Açikgöz, their leading scorer of the tournament, finding himself in foul trouble in the third. 

Oscar Onrubia (20 points) and Ignacio Ortega (16 points) were the top scorers for Spain, while Mucahit Gunaydin (20 points) led for Turkey.

Spain’s Onrubia said:

“It was a good battle. I think it has been a very, very highly contested match. It has been a match of two heavyweights. I think that in the end we have managed to tip the balance and obviously we have come here for the gold. Tomorrow we go with all the artillery, we go with everything we have for the gold and see what happens. Hopefully it goes well.”

Spain claimed their spot in the final against Germany. Israel and Turkey will play for Bronze.

5-7 Placing Games

In the 5-7 placing games, hosts Italy went down 47-48 and 51-68 to Poland and France, respectively, to end their hopes of securing a spot at the U23 World Championship next year in Chiba, Japan. The final qualification place will now be decided by the winner of the game between France and Poland tomorrow morning. 

Italy vs Poland at the 2021 Men’s U23 European Championship Photo : Augusto Bizzi

Poland came from behind in the game against Italy to get their first win of the Championship and keep their hopes of a ticket to Japan next year alive. Italy’s Lorenzo Bassoli was top scorer with 21 points, followed by Szymon Gładysz and Krzysztof Kozaryna hitting 20 points and 18 points respectively to lead Poland’s scoring.

France picked themselves up from missing out on a semi-final spot, to put on an impressive display in their win over Italy storming out to an early lead and winning the first three quarters 23-9, 18-11, and 17-12. A revived Italian team won the final quarter 19-10, but it was not enough. France’s Manuel Gomez top scored with 24 points, just ahead of Italy’s Lorenzo Bassoli who made 23 points.

The Championship, organised by IWBF Europe and FIPIC and being run under strict COVID-19 hygiene and safety protocols, is the European Zone’s Qualification Tournament for the Men’s U23 World Championship, which is scheduled to take place in Chiba, Japan next year. The top five countries will qualify.

Image courtesy of FIPC – Augusto Bizzi