Host Turkey hopeful as World Champs for Women start
Turkey won medals in its last two EuroBasket campaigns, a silver medal in Poland in 2011 and a bronze in France last year.Host Turkey starts the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women with a tough group game against France on Sept. 27 at Ankara Arena.
Turkey comes to the tournament with high hopes in the back of recent achievements, but France is among the competition favorites as well.
“We’ve always set big goals for ourselves,” Turkey head coach Ceyhun Yıldızoğlu said. “Both at EuroBasket Women and the Olympics we’ve always aimed to be the best. We know it will be hard, but we believe in ourselves. Fan support will be a critical factor and we want to see that support until the last game.”
Turkey won medals in its last two EuroBasket campaigns, a silver medal in Poland in 2011 and a bronze in France last year. The team also finished fifth on the first occasion it qualified for the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
However, France is a force to be reckoned with, and comes to Turkey as a silver medalist in EuroBasket 2013 and the Olympic Games.
Apart from France, Turkey will also face Canada and Mozambique in Group B. Turkey’s next game will be against Canada on Sept. 28. The final games in the group will be Mozambique vs. Turkey and France vs. Canada on Sept. 30.
The FIBA World Championship welcomes the world’s best 16 national teams to Istanbul and Ankara. Group games will be held at Abdi İpekçi Arena in Istanbul and Ankara Arena in Ankara. The final rounds will take place at Ülker Sports Arena in Istanbul, with the championship game scheduled for Oct. 5.
“It is a pleasure to welcome the international basketball family back to Istanbul and Ankara four years after hosting the 2010 FIBA World Championship,” Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) President Turgay Demirel said. “The women on the national team have achieved unprecedented successes in recent years, and I know they will inspire the nation once again.”
In order to make the home team advantage count, point guard Birsel Vardarlı Demirmen called on the fans to rally behind the team.
“I think together with our fans it’s going to be a really great atmosphere,” she said. “When we finish the group and come to Istanbul for the final games we’ll want everyone to come and support us.”
Apart from Turkey and France, Spain, Australia, Canada and Japan have cause for optimism ahead of their campaigns but it’s going to take something special to knock perennial favorites the United States off their perch.
The U.S., in the midst of a 25-game unbeaten run in Olympic and World Championship tournaments, boast a star-studded roster that is loaded with experience.
The Americans will compete in Group D in Istanbul against China, Angola and Serbia, and among their players is Sue Bird.
The 33-year-old will make history as the first player to appear in four U.S. squads at the FIBA World Championship.
“It just means I’ve been playing a lot of years,” Bird said. “We have a lot of other veterans in this group and I’m sure we’ll have a good mix of experience and youth.”
Some of the other veterans include the MVP of this year’s WNBA Finals, Diana Taurasi, along with Tina Charles, Candice Dupree, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
Each has played on at least one of the U.S. teams to reach the top of the podium at a World Championship or Olympic Games.
Australia, favorites to top a Group C that also includes Belarus, Korea and Cuba, must overcome the loss of Liz Cambage. The 23-year-old center ruptured her Achilles tendon in a warm-up game to rob the Opals of their biggest weapon.
Penny Taylor, the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women MVP, and veterans Belinda Snell and Erin Phillips, will spearhead the Australia attack.
FIBA Asia champions Japan will be looking to keep the momentum going in Group A against Brazil, Spain and the Czech Republic.
They boast the dynamic center Ramu Tokashiki and the silky-smooth power forward Yuka Mamiya, but it remains to be seen how Japan cope without point guard Asami Yoshida and all-round talent Chika Sakuragi.
Spain will look to build on last year’s success, a first-ever EuroBasket Women title. The 2013 tournament MVP Sancho Lyttle and all-tournament selection Alba Torrens will lead the Lucas Mondelo-coached Spaniards.
This year’s tournament has a new wrinkle with the winners of the four pools in the group phase booking tickets to the quarterfinals.
The four sides that come in last in the group phase fall out of the competition, while the teams that finish second and third are to play on Oct. 1 in qualifications for the other four quarterfinal spots.