Crucial Qualifier for GB Women’s Basketball
Team GB head to Latvia for a must-win qualifier against Belarus in their hopes to reach the FIBA Women’s Eurobasket tournament later this year. Jessica Matthewson takes a look at the event and the rise of Team GB as they prepare for the all-important fixture.
The pressure is on.
There are only a few games left in the qualifiers for the FIBA Eurobasket 2021, but for Team GB, everything rides on their solitary remaining fixture. A win against Belarus will seal qualification. Anything less, and they’ll be spending the summer watching from home.
In the 38th year of the highly anticipated event, there was necessary decision taken in order for the qualifiers to go ahead. The FIBA Europe Board settled on host bubbles for both the men’s and women’s teams, decided by health and travel compliance based on government Covid guidelines. This competition also serves as part of the European qualification for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
The final round of the Eurobasket will take place between the 17th and 27th June 2021 in Valencia, Spain. The co-hosts of this year’s tournament, France and Spain, are already in the final round, joined by three nations, Belgium, Serbia and Sweden, leaving 11 spaces available.
France are the favourites to win this year – taking the title in Spain would be especially gratifying as they have lost to the Spanish team many times, including a devastating defeat on home turf in 2013. Although, Paul Nilsen, a specialist in FIBA women’s basketball, has said he believes Spain will also take a spot in the top three.
The dark house this year is Bosnia and Herzegovina. Experts of the game believe that, despite the fact they haven’t qualified for the final round since the 1990s, the addition of Jonquel Jones puts them in a favourable position. Her debut game for the team saw her claim an outstanding 29 points and 16 rebounds.
On the other hand, Turkey looks like they may be facing trouble playing in a very competitive group. Despite having a rich history in the competition, if they don’t secure second place with a win against Lithuania this will be the first time they have not made it to the final round since 2005.
The GB team have demonstrated some real skill and determination so far in the November qualifiers, winning games against Poland and only losing once to Thursday’s opponents Belarus.
After finishing a historic fourth place in 2019, the women’s team have made it their goal to secure a place in the 2021 final round and head coach Chema Buceta is the man to get them there.
The Spaniard was first appointed in 2015, spearheading an upturn in fortunes for the team. When speaking to Sportspiel, he has said that the team have developed a real sense of “pride” and they are on “the cusp of something special.”
The team is full of experience with players that competed at the London 2012 Olympics and the WNBA. Starters from the Poland game; Eilidh Simpson, Chantelle Handy, Janice Monakana, Temi Fagbenle and Kristine Anigwe all put in stellar performances and are set to bring the same intensity to the Belarus game.
22-year-old Hannah Robb is the only Scottish player in the team’s roster and secured her first points as a GB senior women’s player in the latest game against Poland. When speaking to British Basketball, she said that stepping onto the court with the Union Jack on her jersey for the first time was “an incredible feeling”, a feeling that she will “remember forever.”
She hopes to feature once again with the team as they step out to play Belarus for the last crucial game in the qualifiers. It’s do or die for the GB women on Thursday morning and we can only hope that the aforementioned pride and success carries onto the court, sealing a victory that would go some way in helping us all rebound from the toughest of years.
Watch Great Britain take on Belarus in Riga, Latvia at 11:30 (GMT) on Thursday 4th February on YOUTUBE.COM/FIBA