TALLINN (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Pre-Qualifiers) - Four teams, including two that go head-to-head in Estonia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Group C, will be vying for the three tickets to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers that are on offer Wednesday.
After starting the Pre-Qualifiers with a pair of losses, MKD have managed to offset some of the damage done with a convincing victory over Kosovo last weekend and are now eyeing another revenge game against Estonia.
The 87-74 victory at the Boris Trajkovski Sports Center in Skopje not only put coach Jordancho Davitkov's side on the board in Group C with a 1-2 record, but also gave them a potentially crucial head-to-head advantage over their Kosovan neighbors, both geographically and in terms of the standings.
"We knew that we are a better team than Kosovo and we must win by at least 5 points," said the team's power forward Ljubomir Mladenovski, who scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the last game after not playing in the first two games.
"I am grateful for the chance I got and I am sure that I will get better as time goes on as I get more opportunities to play. You saw it from the start of the game; we had so much energy that drove us the win."
Having been eliminated otherwise, a positive result against Kosovo has put MKD in a much better position before their final game in Tallinn than they could have possibly expected, after a terrible start of the campaign, with a win now guaranteeing them a spot in the Qualifiers.
"Now, we have one more match, against Estonia. They scored some lucky shots last time but I think that we can get them this time," stated Mladenovski, looking ahead to Wednesday's duel against the undefeated group leaders Estonia.
Holding a solid cushion in their 2-0 record, Estonia are already one foot into the Qualifiers themselves, barring a disastrous finish to the Pre-Qualifiers and two big losses to MKD and Kosovo. However, head coach Tiit Sokk did not want to get ahead of himself before it is all official.
"There's still a long way to go and we have to watch out for the next game with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," said the 52-year-old specialist after defeating Kosovo 76-50 last week.
One of two teams that can also book a spot in the Qualifiers on Wednesday is Armenia, who will be looking to lock up a top-two finish in Group A when they take on Sweden on the road in Uppsala.
The other game of the group will have plenty on the line as well, with a loss for either side spelling the end of the road for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will be without naturalized point guard Alex Renfroe, and the Slovak Republic. The loser of the game in Bratislava will be mathematically eliminated from the race for a place in the next round.
Belarus could punch their ticket to the Qualifiers as well with a win over the so-far unstoppable Group D leaders Bulgaria in Minsk, while Group B standouts Austria and the Netherlands will continue their battle for the top seed after securing qualification over the weekend.