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Magic Man13
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Magic Man13


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Join date : 2010-06-11
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Let the battles begin Empty
PostSubject: Let the battles begin   Let the battles begin I_icon_minitimeWed Sep 22, 2010 12:48 pm

Let the battles begin Jackson

OSTRAVA (2010 FIBA World Championship for Women) - There has been blood, sweat and tears.

Those who have been hustling on the hardwood to get ready for the most important tournament of their lives are about to discover if it was all worth it.

The 16-team FIBA World Championship for Women tips off on Thursday and the players of first-timers Greece can hardly wait.

“After almost a month of practices, things are very good in our team and we are all waiting for the great challenge of the World Championship,” veteran point guard Dimitra Kalentzou said to FIBA.com.

“Thank God there were no injuries in our team.”

Greece claimed a surprise fifth place last summer at the EuroBasket Women with Evina Maltsi voted tournament MVP.

They also have the hugely impressive coach Kostas Missas.

The Greeks will take on the Olympic champions the United States, EuroBasket 2009 gold medalists France and African title winners Senegal in Group B, with those clashes to take place in Ostrava.

“Even though it’s our first participation in a World Championship, our target is to go to the next phase with one or two wins,” Kalentzou said.

France will be without FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year Sandrine Gruda.

The UMMC Ekaterinburg center was last week ruled out of the World Championship because of knee problems.

“For sure our group is difficult, but I think that Senegal and France are not out of our league,” Kalentzou said.

There does seem to be a whiff of unpredictability in the air.

Australia, the gold medal winners four years ago in Brazil, are in Group A with Canada, Belarus and China.

The Aussies are looking to defend their world title and maybe, just maybe they'll have enough to do just that judging from their performances last weekend in Spain.

With Lauren Jackson joining the team late after capturing a third WNBA MVP award in her illustrious career and then capping the season with a 3-0 sweep of the Atlanta Dream in the Finals of that series, the Opals look tough to beat.

Even without Jackson, the Aussies overcame the USA 83-77 in a warm-up match on Friday night in Salamanca and then thrashed the Spaniards, 85-66, 24 hours later.

Both the United States and Spain were missing key players as well, though.

American point guard Sue Bird was a Seattle teammate of Jackson's, while recently naturalized Spaniard Lyttle was manning the low post for the Dream.

The pressure is really on for those trying to earn a spot in the squad of the USA - the number one team in the FIBA World Rankings for Women.

USA Basketball reduced their roster from 17 to 14 after the games in Salamanca.

Auriemma's squad was due to face the Czech Republic in Brno in their last warm-up game.

"I think the players, the staff and everyone are anxious for the middle of the week when we can finally settle on 12 and start playing the World Championship,” Auriemma said, the long-time coach of the University of Connecticut women’s team.

Other national teams have been making headlines.

Despite the loss of Gruda, France, who are coached by Pierre Vincent, hosted games against Argentina Japan and Brazil and won them all.

Brazil center Alessandra said of the EuroBasket Women 2009 winners: "I think the team will overcome the loss of Sandrine Gruda.

"From what I saw in the game against Japan, (newcomer) Jennifer Digbeu is going very well."

Brazil, who are led by Spaniard Carlos Colinas, managed to beat their South American rivals Argentina but then fell in an upset to Japan before losing to the French.

Veterans Iziane and Erika De Souza played for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA Finals and should give Brazil a boost by the time the World Championship tips off.

In Group C with Brazil are Spain, Mali and Korea.

The last time that China played in a major competition was at the Olympics they hosted in 2008.

China will be in Group A with Australia, Belarus and Canada.

Belarus will make headlines with gritty play on the court, and with their fashion.

They will compete in Ostrava with Tuta playing dresses.

"It will be the first time in such a high level of competition that a women's basketball team will play in such modern style uniforms," a proud Tuta CEO Valentinas Navikauskas said.

"We have also seen on the internet that the Chinese company Peak have borrowed the concept of our Aphrodite model (that was created in conjunction with FIBA Europe) and is using this style for Australian national team.

"Therefore, we are going to the next level with playing dresses."

Belarus center Yelena Leuchanka missed the preparations while she was on duty with the Atlanta Dream but will be in Ostrava.

Group D has a couple of European heavyweights in it with Russia and the Czech Republic.

Russia beat the Czechs in the gold-medal game of the EuroBasket Women 2003 and the Czechs avenged that setback two years later.

It’s hard to mention Russia and not think of veteran center Maria Stepanova of UMMC Ekaterinburg.

She helped Russia upset the United States in the Semi-Finals of the World Championship four years ago in Brazil.

"All our players are ambitious," Stepanova said to FIBA.com.

"And in any case, we'll fight for medals, and we'll see what value they will be ...”

Russia suffered an important loss in warm-up games against Greece with Marina Karpunina tearing knee ligaments.

Stepanova’s UMMC Ekaterinburg teammate Svetlana Abrosimova played with Seattle and helped them win the WNBA title.

The Czech Republic, who are expected to play in front of huge audiences in the homeland under coach Lubor Blazek, also have a recently crowned WNBA champion in Jana Vesela.

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