EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
Spain are the hot favourites to top Qualification Round Group D but Bulgaria, Germany, Romania and Sweden all have a fair chance at securing a place at EuroBasket Women 2013, Paul Nilsen writes.
|Forward Jaklin Zlatanova will have an even bigger role on offense for Bulgaria this summer|
Bulgaria could so easily have qualified directly for EuroBasket Women 2011 but only just missed out, with a 5-3 record to Turkey and Montenegro after losing in two absolutely crucial one-shot games. Head coach Jose Maria Buceta has his hands full in trying to ensure Bulgaria make up for that disappointment since the kingpin and main thrust of their previous qualification campaign, Donneka Hodges, is in the WNBA this summer. Along with the impressive Jaklin Zlatanova, they had scored almost half of the team's entire points total between them during the last two years and this leaves the coach with a real issue. At least the commitment and focus is present from the players who will participate. The return of Vera Perostiyska is a tonic and there are a couple of younger players beginning to rise to prominence, but whether they can have enough of an impact to make a difference remains to be seen. Coach Buceta will at least breathe a sigh of relief that the group does give them an opportunity - if they can make the most of the games with Sweden and Germany in particular.
Key Player: Jaklin Zlatanova
Exciting Talent: Stefka Miteva
Key Absence: Donneka Hodges
X-Factor: Offensive firepower is potentially a big problem for Bulgaria who, despite a reasonable frontcourt, have very limited backcourt options. Somebody needs to have a big summer at the point guard spot if they want to progress.
In Just Six Words: Lack of playmakers a real concern.
|Germany will be at their best if Anne Breitreiner shoots the ball a lot - and well|
Germany was the last team to book their place at EuroBasket Women 2011 after they pipped the highly-fancied Hungarians in the Additional Qualifying Round. They just caught fire as a team in late spring and really found some momentum before finally and unsurprisingly running out of gas when they touched down in Poland. With very few star names but just some really good players committed to the team ethic - not least the heartbeat of the side, Anne Breitreiner - Germany could continue their impressive run. With Spain seemingly destined for top spot, they will probably fight it out with Sweden and Bulgaria for the second place and on that basis, they have nothing to fear. Romy Bar and Svenja Greunke are two other players particularly worth watching and if new play-caller Andreas Wagner can get his team playing anywhere like his predecessor Bastrian Wernthaler, it could be another summer of fun for Germany.
Key Player: Anne Breitreiner
Exciting Talent: Svenja Greunke
Key Absence: Lea Mersch
X-Factor: Germany is at their best when Breitreiner is shooting the ball well so responsibility weighs heavy on her shoulders. If she is off colour, Germany may struggle to find the points they need to win games.
In Just Six Words: A chance of repeating 2011 success.
|Romania will have to fill the void that the retirement of center Maria Pascalau leaves in their frontcourt|
It isn't impossible for Romania to progress to EuroBasket Women 2013 but pitched into an already difficult looking group, the dreaded injury curse means they will be without two of the main players from their relatively tight seven-player rotation from the last time they tried qualifying. Veteran Maria Pascalau and the exciting talent of Claudia Pop will both miss the summer's action and that is a hammer blow to Romania who are eager to one day establish themselves amongst the elite women's basketball nations. A lot of effort is going into women's basketball from the Federation and while they are keeping the faith, they know it will take an incredible effort to advance. Not that Romania don't know what it takes to reach a Final Round since they participated in EuroBasket Women in Chieti five years ago.
Key Player: Gabriela Marginean
Exciting Talent: Elisabeth Pavel
Key Absence: Maria Pascalau
X Factor: They need to make some outside shots this summer after shooting the ball poorly from the perimeter in their previous qualification campaign. With no Pascalau in the paint, they will perhaps have to supplement her contribution in other areas.
In Just Six Words: Injuries make a tough group worse.
|Spain's Anna Cruz is coming off a great season with EuroLeague Women runners up Rivas Ecopolis and could evolve into a key player|
Having looked like this year would herald the arrival of an entire generation, the glut of famous veterans are not hanging up their national team vests just yet with Amaya Valdemoro, Elisa Aguilar, Marta Fernandez and Anna Montanana all set to make amends for last summer's hugely disappointing failure in Poland when they were dumped out of the tournament early having been medal candidates. Head coach Jose Hernandez has been replaced by Lucas Mondelo who, like his predecessor, was promoted from a successful spell at youth level. He will be expected to deliver and he will have all of the right ingredients to get his team to France. He has talent, vast experience and some fantastic young players, such as Laura Nicholls and Marta Xargay, to choose from in most positions. Even the high-flying forward Sancho Lyttle will return from the WNBA to play a number of games and consequently Spain are seriously stacked.
Key Player: Anna Cruz
Exciting Talent: Marta Xargay
Key Absence: Silvia Dominguez
X-Factor: Opponents will raise their game against a big name like Spain. Preparation and mental toughness is everything - reputation is nothing.
In Just Six Words: Failing isn't an option for Mondelo.
|Sweden's chances to qualify can suffer a huge blow if Frida Eldebrink is sidelined because of injury |
It seems almost unimaginable Sweden have been competing recently in the now defunct Division B. Unsurprisingly, they were far too good and the decision to dispose of the second tier of women's national team basketball suits Sweden greatly, although even under the old system they would have been promoted anyways. They are a dynamic team, stacked with an almost frightening amount of young talent and the time could be ripe for this generation to shine and deliver against their huge potential. After a wave of talent in the form of the Eldebrink sisters and Louice Halvarsson, there are now a bunch of even younger players emerging and that bodes well for Swedish women's basketball who has been making a noise through hosting youth tournaments in recent years and also the exciting exploits of Telge Basket in EuroCup Women last season. They are a vibrant team and could end up fighting it out probably with Bulgaria and Germany for the second spot but it looks like an ankle injury to Frida Eldebrink could seriously dent their chances.
Key Player: Louice Halvarsson
Exciting Talent: Farhiya Abdi
Key Absence: Amanda Zahui (possibly Frida Eldebrink)
X-Factor: Their collective and individual shooting percentages haven't always been great and they are young but must make smart choices in terms of shot selection and finish at the hoop.
In Just Six Words: Talented, but Eldebrink injury changes things.