Turkey meets Russia in historic basketball game
Turkish guard Esmeral Tunçluer (L) gets past US player Tina Charles during the two teams’ preliminary round match during the Olympic Games in London. Turkey finished its group in second spot behind US to set a quarterfinal meeting with Russia. REUTERS Photo
Turkey will play Russia in a historic women’s basketball quarterfinals match at the London Olympic Games tonight.
The Turkish national women’s basketball team had a successful campaign in the preliminary round, winning four of its five matches.
Turkey managed to beat Angola, the Czech Republic, China and Croatia to secure the second spot in Group A, having been beaten only by defending champion the United States in the process.
That performance not only gave Turkey an advantageous quarterfinal draw, but also helped it avoid meeting heavy favorite the U.S. until the final.
As the Group A winner, the U.S. will play Canada, who finished Group B in the fourth spot. Turkey set a quarterfinal meeting with Russia, the third finisher of Group B. Other quarterfinal games include the Czech Republic vs. France and Australia vs. China. If Turkey wins tonight’s game, it will meet the winner of the France vs. Czech Republic game.
It was Russia who deprived Turkey of a gold medal in last summer’s European Championships, winning 59-42 in the final. But tonight’s game is not simply revenge for Turkey, who now stands just two wins away from winning an elusive medal in team sports.
The team already has its place in history
However, the team’s performance so far is enough to ensure them a place in Turkey’s sports history. The national team’s path to London was a long and daunting one, which included being placed second at last year’s European Championships to win a chance to play in the Olympic qualification tournament.
The Turkish team won the Olympic qualification after the tournament in Ankara in June, making them the first women’s basketball team to represent Turkey in the Olympics. Along with the women’s volleyball team, they also ended a 48-year drought during which Turkey was not represented in Olympic team sports.
Prior to 2012, Turkey’s Olympic campaigns mostly included individual sports, especially the country’s strongholds, wrestling and weightlifting. However, with Turkish weightlifters failing to deliver a single medal and four out of five Turkish wrestlers being knocked out of the competition, the national basketball team seems to stand possibly the best chance of winning a medal for Turkey.
“Our expectations are much higher than, say, the average fan,” center Quanitra Holingsworth, a U.S. player who was granted Turkish citizenship earlier this year in order to play in the Olympics, said prior to the Games. “A lot of people are satisfied with simply making it to the Olympics, but we really want to go there and make some noise, to try to leave a mark.”
If Turkey can beat Russia to advance to the final four, a medal would be within its reach – and that would certainly leave a mark in Turkish sports history.