Puerto Montt (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) – Brazil, Spain and Slovenia are expected to battle it out for first place in Group D of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, while Chinese Taipei will be looking to cause the upset that moves them into the Eight Finals.
In a group containing some of the big name players of the tournament, including Slovenia’s Nika Baric, Spain’s Laura Gil and Queralt Casas, and Brazilian centre Damiris Dantas, the three favourites all arrive with settled and well-practiced line-ups.
Spain coach Carlos Colinas believes this is one of his team’s strengths. "Our advantage is that the base of the team has been playing together for 2-3 years in the national team," he said. "So the technical part for me is just organising their resources for each particular game and making sure they feel comfortable in their roles."
While Spain, the runners up at last year’s European Championship, are favoured to emerge from Group D undefeated, coach Colinas is well aware of the quality of opposition in the group.
Brazil claimed second place at last year’s FIBA U18 Americas Championship, losing only to the USA in the final, and have since dedicated themselves to making a big impact in Chile.
"Brazil is an excellent team," Colinas said. "They have been together for seven months preparing specifically for this competition. They are a well balanced team, they play daring basketball, direct and very physical."
Slovenia coach Damir Grgic is also preparing for a tough challenge against Brazil, and listed Damiris Dantas as a potential star of the tournament.
Slovenia finished fourth in the U18 European Championship last year, their best ever result, but were handed a 77-46 lesson by Spain in the Semi Finals.
However, Grgic is confident his team can compete with the two powerful nations in their group. "We know almost everything about those teams, we are very well prepared."
Spain will not be letting their guard down when they Slovenia on the last day of group play however, according to coach Colinas. "About Slovenia I must emphasise Nika Baric’s talent as a dominant player," he said. "She can unbalance a game offensively and she is accompanied by some other interesting and talented players."
Both coaches admit to knowing little about Chinese Taipei, and the Asian bronze medallist will be looking to sneak under the radar with a team that features a number of players from their successful 2010 outfit.
Chinese Taipei defeated a talented South Korean team twice at last year’s FIBA U18 Asia Championship for Women, including a 78-54 thrashing in the bronze medal game to book their tickets to Chile.
Lee Ching-Ning, Huang Hsiang-Ting and Lin Yu-Ting all led the way for their country and have been named in the squad for the world championship.
Group D tips off on 21 July in Puerto Varas at 1800 with Slovenia facing Chinese Taipei, while Brazil play Spain in Puerto Montt at 2100 in what could be one of the best games of the opening night.