The first group stage of the European Championship U20 has come to a close and twelve nations from the twenty that started the tournament progress to the next phase. That second group stage (comprising two groups of six countries) will get underway on Monday with a busy schedule of contests in store.
Many of the competition favourites punched tickets to the next round, including defending champions Turkey. In fact 2014’s runner up and third placed nations (Spain and Serbia) have also booked safe passage to the next group round. Joining those nations are France, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Germany.
France was already sure of the place in the next round and yielded to Italy 57-55 in game four, which was enough to see the Azzurri progress too. Tommaso Laquintana led Italy to success with 15 points as his team extended throughout and protected a 10 points third quarter cushion in a nervy finish. Belgium also made sure of a place in Group E of F with victory over Croatia, with the 2014 European Championship U20 4th placed team sinking to the bottom of the group. Belgium cruised to an 85-68 win that was propelled a classy all-round display from Manu Lecomte as he amassed 32 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Serbia stayed perfect in its attempt to win a first title since back to back success in 2007 and 2008. The winningest nation in this format (4 titles) eased past Greece 62-80, using 46 second half points to blow the Greeks away. As a result of the loss, Greece allowed Latvia to leapfrog them and claim the final berth for the next round. The Latvians actually lost 70-67 to Israel (who also qualified), but progressed because of the Serbian victory in the other game. Rolands Smits will be vital for Latvia moving forward after he nailed 27 points and pulled in 17 rebounds in an impressive double-double.
The Czech Republic ended Russia’s 2015 European Championship U20 bit at the first hurdle with a 72-53 win. The Czech contingent moved to the next round in second place in Group C with a 3-1 record, with Martin Peterka standing out with a double-double of 18 points and 12 boards in the winning effort. Spain had already qualified and put the icing on the proverbial cake with a big 72-52 victory over eliminated Poland. In success the Spanish joined Serbia as the only undefeated nations remaining and last year’s runner-up is on course to go one better this summer.
The United Kingdom has struggled in the tournament this season and once again the Brits were put to the sword. Lithuania rubber stamped its qualification with a 49-56 victory, and while the UK rallied in the final act, the Lithuanians controlled much of the game and held a 14 point cushion through thirty minutes. Turkey downed Germany 62-53 to reach the next group stage as Group D winner, although the Germans also move forward thanks to a better head to head record against Slovenia.