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Mestdagh and Belgium end a decade of hurt
WALBRZYCH (FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers) – You need to go way back to 2007 for the last time Belgium featured at a FIBA EuroBasket Women Final Round and so it's of little surprise that stamping their pass for next summer's big event tasted extra sweet.
Belgium completed a super 77-61 success in Poland to finish as Group G winners and it brought a 10-year hiatus from Europe's top table to an end – something which head coach Philip Mestdagh believes was essential for the sport in his country.
Indeed, rather than reflecting on the historic failures of missing out on four consecutive Final Round tournaments, the play-caller was quick to outline how we wants his team to go to Czech Republic looking to make an impact.
"It's our first EuroBasket in 10 years, so we have to be ambitious," he insisted.
"We are a young group and I think we can improve – so we can do even better in the future.
"It was a very good victory for us [against Poland] and while sometimes it wasn't so good on defence, I was pleased with the offence.
"This is a very big step for women's basketball in Belgium," continued the Castors Braine coach.
"It's a great feeling because our group was not easy with both Poland and Belarus in it.
"It wasn’t only Ann Wauters and Emma Meesseman who played well, but the players from the bench too."
His last point was an important one – while the returning veteran Wauters has played a huge role in their return and Meesseman continues to be a colossus, it looked and felt like a team effort.
One of those players who has played a full role in the vital supporting cast is Jana Raman who was both relieved and thrilled Belgium completed their mission.
"It was a difficult game for us because after the win against Belarus, we were almost sure that we would be playing in the EuroBasket Women Final Round and yet we still had to win this one," stated Raman.
"We had to focus and I think that we did a great job.
"Everybody is happy that we can now go to the Final Round," concluded the forward.
Belgium will find out who they will face on their return to the Final Round when the Draw is made in Prague on 09 December.