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Cuba lose Amargo but remain upbeat as final roster for WOQT confirmed

HAVANA (2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Cuba coach Alberto Zabala on Thursday confirmed the final roster for the upcoming FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT) in Nantes, France.

The Cubans will be among the 12 teams chasing one of the five spots for the Rio Olympics from 13-19 June. However, they will be without Yamara Amargo, the team's leading scorer at the last two editions of the FIBA Americas Women’s Championships. 

     Cuba 12-player final roster for 2016 FIBA WOQT
Suchitel Avila Ineidis Casanova Marlen Cepeda Arlety Chacon
Anisleidy Galindo Oyanaisy Gelis Fransy Grechin Izquierdo Clenia Noblet
Leidys Oquendo Arlenys Romero Edith Thompson Lisdeyvi Valdes

The 30-year-old Amargo was part of the first phase of the team's preparations but had to withdraw as she is expecting a baby.

"Unfortunately for basketball fans, her absence represents a major blow because she has been one of our best players in recent years. But from the life standpoint this is big news for everybody because our beloved Yamara will have a child," Zabala told FIBA.com.

Our group remains as strong and we are going to France determined to play the best we can and qualify for Rio. - Arlenys Romero

The Cubans still believe they have a squad that can reach the Olympics, a competition they have not played in since 2000. They will compete in Group A against hosts France and New Zealand.

The loss of Amargo does deprive Cuba of their most lethal shooter from long range. She drilled 12 of her 26 (46.2 percent) shots from behind the arc at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship and was named to the All-Star Five.

Cuba will need to claim a top-two finish in the Group Phase at the WOQT in order to advance to the Quarter-Finals. If they were to win a Quarter-Final against Turkey, Argentina or Cameroon, Cuba would clinch a spot in the Olympics.

A Quarter-Final defeat would leave them needing to win two more games against other Quarter-Final losers to take the fifth and final spot on offer for Rio.

Despite the challenge of going to battle without Amargo, point guard Arlenys Romero remains upbeat about the team's objectives.

"Our group remains as strong and we are going to France determined to play the best we can and qualify for Rio," she explained to FIBA.com. "We are all in a positive mood and highly motivated to qualify for the Olympics. It’s been a long time since our country played in the Olympics. Hopefully, this will be our year."

The 1.76m playmaker did admit: "It will be tough for everybody because there are only five spots for the Rio Olympics."

There is a good feeling in the squad. On a visit to the National Institute of Sports early this week, team captain Clenia Noblet received the Cuban flag that will be displayed in Nantes.

The Cuban team will arrive in Spain on Friday for the remainder of their preparations and will play a number of warm-up games against the Spaniards and Canada.

Spain are also getting ready for the WOQT while Canada are already in the Rio Games after beating Cuba in last year's FIBA Americas Women's Championship title showdown in Edmonton.

"We have been practicing for over a month, and these preparations in Spain should help us strengthen the team chemistry," Romero said.