Bluster ahead of basketball games

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Bluster ahead of basketball games

GUANGZHOU, China - China said its toughest opponent will be itself as they prepared for a confident Iran on Tuesday before the Asian Games basketball quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s knockout round matchups will see defending champions China go up against Doha 2006 runner-up Qatar, while Japan faces North Korea. Iran tips off with Jordan, and South Korea meets the Philippines. But Iran and China are largely expected to face each other in the finals.

“The competition begins officially from now on,” said Chinese point guard Zhang Qingpeng, who scored 31 points in Monday’s win over Jordan, hitting nine-of-14 3-pointers.

“I hope that we can adjust for the next games since our strongest opponents will be ourselves.”

China’s American coach Bob Donewald largely rested his starters in the 101-53 whipping of Jordan, ensuring fresh legs for what could be a three-game in three-day run to Friday’s championship match.

“Our goal is of course to become the champions and I believe that China can reach this goal,” said back-up guard Zhang Bo, revealing little if any pressure over huge fan expectations on the host team.

Following an uninspired 85-58 victory over winless India on Monday, Japan’s U.S. coach Thomas Wisman admitted that player over-confidence in the knockout match against minnows North Korea could be a problem.

“There are no easy matches. We need to be prepared, the players need to know what they have to do to win,” Wisman said. “We cannot afford to overlook North Korea and it is my job to make sure my players know this.”

Meanwhile, confidence was sky-high for two-time Asian champion Iran, which recently beat Jordan and are taking solace in the fact that the Jordanians have left their best players at home.

“Jordan is a very good team and they are improving, but they are not Jordan’s first team,” Iran’s Serbian coach Veselin Matic said. “It will be a very big game for us to reach the semifinals, I think my players may underestimate them, but we will beat Jordan.”

South Korean coach Yoo Jae-Hak told reporters that he was “80 to 90 percent” sure his team would beat the Philippines, adding that his side would spend Tuesday preparing tactics and reviewing video of his opponents’ matches.

“Our team is really coming together,” said South Korea’s American import Lee Seung-Jun. “We have a lot of confidence going in. “

For the Philippines’ Serbian coach Rajko Toroman, South Korean overconfidence could be the key to a major upset.

“They are a great team and they lost only by 10 against China,” Toroman said. “[But] we have the advantage that our tournament has started [with several tough matches], while for them it is about to begin. Their other games were too easy for them.”

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