Puerto Montt (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - Group A may contain Italy, the reigning European champions, but it is perhaps the most open of the 2011 FIBA World Champion for Women starting on Thursday, 21 July.
The Italians - who last year shocked Europe by defeating Spain 66-61 to claim their first U18 Women’s title since 1994 - have lost four starters from that team, and will face a tough test against China, the Asian champions, African champions Egypt, and a Canadian team that lost just one game at last year’s Americas tournament.
“Our team will be definitely different from last European championship and obviously our target this summer will be different,” said Italy coach Giovanni Lucchesi, who added that finding out details about his Group A opponents is important to their chances to progress.
“We actually have little information about them. We hope we can get more in the next friendly games we will play before the tournament starts.”
China have shown in lead up games that they will be a tough team to beat in Chile, splitting games with France and defeating Russia 66-57 in the Rezi International Tournament in France.
France coach Jerome Fournier was impressed with what he saw. ”China has a balance between tall girls and shooting guards. So they can score in the paint but behind the arc as well,” he said.
With most of the players from last year’s bronze medal winning U17 FIBA World Championship team involved in this squad, including U17 tournament MVP Meng Li, this tall Chinese team will be very hard to beat.
Egypt defeated Nigeria 63-62 in a tense final at the FIBA Africa U18 Championship for Women last year to show they have what it takes to win big games.
Led by tournament MVP Reem Ossama, a dangerous point guard who will be showing her skills in Chile, Egypt went through the seven game tournament undefeated with an average winning margin of more than 20 points.
While Egypt is somewhat of an unknown commodity, 11 of their players from last year’s squad have been named in their world championship team, and seven of those played the previous year in the U16 Africa tournament, indicating they are a team who knows each other well.
Canada will be aiming high following a fourth placed finish at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women and a bronze medal at last year’s Americas championship. Their team will be led Nirra Fields, the top scorer at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women with 22.4 ppg.
Coach Rich Chambers acknowledges that progressing through Group A is no certainty though. “There will be no easy games in this tournament and the coaching staff will approach each game appropriately, he said.
”We need to play great defense, limit our turnovers and control the tempo of the games. However, I believe the key will be our rebounding.”
Canada opens the tournament in Puerto Montt against China on 21 July at 11:15am local time, following directly after the Italy vs Egypt clash at 9:00am at the same venue.