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Preview: Groups C and D
ORADEA (FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B 2016) – With the action about to get underway in Oradea at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B 2016, we cast our eye over the teams in Groups C and D.
It looks wide open in Group C, with no obvious contender to take top spot and the added intrigue of familiarity via derby games between England, Scotland and Ireland.
All those match-ups will be particularly interesting, with England looking to recover from the shock of a winless Division A campaign which saw them lose all nine games in Matosinhos last year as they crashed through the trap door. Holly Winterburn and Hannah Jump were two members of that team and will want to erase some galling memories with strong performances in Oradea.
Ireland produced an encouraging seventh place in Ohrid and Struga at this event last summer and they will look to the defensive intensity of Dayna Finn to get them off to a confident start, while Scotland were beaten heavily by Ireland at the previous edition of the tournament and had to settle for just one victory against Albania. They will need Ruth Allison to be at her best to improve on that win tally.
Finland were tenth last year and will be banking on playmaker Sara Bejedi to post another eye-catching campaign, while Elina Arika could do the business on the glass. She will have to battle with Elena Dimova for supremacy on the boards as she was the top rebounder last time for Bulgaria.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s players will want to continue a positive calendar year for its female ballers with the U20 team having stayed in Division A and the U18 women joining them after gaining promotion on home soil in Sarajevo. They are back in the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B for the first time in seven years and out to make a splash on their return.
Group D may turn out to be the strongest or at least it arguably looks that way on paper with both Belgium and Poland no doubt entering the tournament ready to realise their promotion ambitions.
Poland will probably emerge as tournament and promotion frontrunners if their three friendly game destructions of Greece are anything to go by.
Anna Maria Makurat has already shown her skills against much older players this summer at the FIBA U20 Women's European Championship.
They also have one of the most talented young players of her generation to utilise in Anna Maria Makurat who can score in so many different ways. She has already showcased her class by playing against players four years older than her at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship last month.
Meanwhile Belgium slipped out of the top tier last year after only managing two wins and will want to jump straight back up to Division A, with forward Becky Massey perhaps most likely to lead any renaissance.
Romania continue dreaming of their Division A curse at this level, having reached the top flight in both U20 and U18 Women, the time may have come to finally complete the set. After all, they were fifth last year and having retained half of their roster, they could be a team to watch out for and especially with home support. Irina Parau and Maria Ferariu are likely to be the ones to propel the promotion push.
Norway could barely have been handed a more difficult assignment as they make a return to the competition after what proved to be a memorable 2015 when they won three consecutive games. Maria Mildesvedt is one of only a couple of returnees from what was largely a 1999-born team, so she will be pivotal.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also managed the same accomplishment as they won three games on the bounce and with half of that roster back on board, they could be expected to post one of their best records at the event.