Mon, 29 Aug 1994

Russia, S. Korea move to semis of Independence Cup

JAKARTA (JP): Top contender Russia, which finished first in Group A, will challenge the tenacious South Korean Army, the runner-up of Group B, in one semifinal of the Fifth Independence Cup while Saudi Arabia, the champion of Group B, will face the United Arab Emirates in the other at Senayan Indoor Stadium here today.

The Emirates team, made up of players groomed for the upcoming Asian Games in Hiroshima in October, is confident it has what it takes to unseat the formidable Saudis.

"Do not take us lightly, I've trained these guys for more than one year, we will neutralize our opponent to earn a ticket to the final," guaranteed John Sneed, the Emirates' American coach, on Saturday after beating the Philippines 68-55.

"We will defeat our enemies," added Sneed.

Judging by past performances, however, it will be difficult to walk such talk.

The Emirates put on a sloppy effort on Friday in losing to Russia 65-49. The game, moreover, revealed the fact that the Emirates is an uneven team since most of the players seem to lack skills or confidence. Forward Hamdan Saeed is the only true asset that Sneed can rely upon.

In contrast, the Saudis - who will also show up in Hiroshima in October - are a bunch of ambitious and confident players. Almost all of them, right down to the reserves, possess the right physical builds and skills. The fact that they have played well despite the absence of Ali Sanhani, their three-point shooting specialist, confirms this theory.

On top of this, the Saudis have three American coaches to rely on while the Emirates have but one.

It was no surprise that they destroyed the Iranians 97-57 almost unchallenged on Friday. The Saudis also scalped China, the Asian champion, in the preliminary round of last year's Asian Championship here.

It will not be a shock if the Saudis upstage the Russians - this is the match-up the pundits predict for the final - and grab the Independence Cup.


Russia, despite its solid showing at the World Championships in Toronto, Canada, has not displayed much class at this tourney.

The Russians had to break a sweat to tame the Emirates whose chronic sloppiness cemented the win for the current world runners-up.

Of course, this Russian team is much different than the one from Toronto. Only three of their elite players - Valery Borisov, Igor Tchrov and Sergei Shourev - made the trip here,

A South Korean upset today wouldn't be as shocking as it would seem.

The Koreans main assets are its trio of three-point shooters including Lee Sang- bum, Kim Hyun- joo and Kim Jae- youl. (hdj)