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27 September
05 October, 2014
Erika Souza (BRA)
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Group A Preview: Souza to hit the century mark

ANKARA (FIBA World Championship for Women) - No other nation stepping out in Ankara has the same kind of FIBA World Championship for Women pedigree as Brazil, who famously stepped onto the top step of the podium exactly two decades ago.

While they can be forgiven for having the 2016 Rio Olympics in the back of their minds, there is definitely a transitional feel to the South American side as they continue to blood new players - no better highlighted than by Taina Paixao gradually taking over the playmaking reins from veteran campaigner Adriana Pinto who will enjoy one last swansong.

This promises to be one of the key factors for Brazil as they welcome back their WNBA trio of Damiris Dantas, Nadia Colhado and not least Erika Souza, who will celebrate her 100th game in national team colours.

"I am very proud to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and therefore being fortunate enough to be able to complete 100 games is immense," said the center.

"Hopefully I can reciprocate the affection that the Brazilian nation has for me with an added incentive to give my best and help the girls in this debut game which is so important."

Brazil will play 2010 hosts and runners-up Czech Republic, with Souza likely to go up against Petra Kulichova who was almost ruled out of the event.

Much to the relief of the player and her team-mates, the ankle injury she sustained against USA earlier in the week was not as serious as first thought, which means she can probably now hit the hardwood in an Arena which holds good memories for the Czech team.

Two years ago they stamped a ticket for the London Olympics at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the Turkish capital, with Kulichova taking the Tissot Player of the Tournament award.

With the experienced Eva Viteckova and Jana Vesela back, the Czech team should be at full strength - although they still have to figure out how to compete without a top class or experienced playmaker after Veronika Bortelova retired.

FIBA Asia champions Japan have a similar issue to contend with when they tussle with Spain without Asami Yoshida. Much responsibility will inevitably be on Yuko Oga to shine in the backcourt. Although Ankara Arena holds very different memories for the free-scoring guard, since this was the location where her Olympic dreams were shattered.

Oga will be out to make amends not only for this, but also for a 27-point loss to Spain four years ago at the event, when Japan did not perform anywhere near their capabilities. She was the tournament's top scorer in the Czech Republic but might be well shackled in this first game.

This is because her club coach with Chinese side Shanxi is none other than Spain head coach Lucas Mondelo, who has no problems at all in his playmaking spot. He has a perfect balance of youth and experience, with Laia Palau, Nuria Martinez and Silvia Dominguez being joined by the outstanding youngster, Leticia Romero.

And on the subject of balance, none of the four groups look quite as balanced or competitive on paper as this one.