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FIBA President Muratore delighted with Women's World Cup, looks forward to electrifying finish
TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 is set to reach its pinnacle on Sunday, when reigning world champions USA put their title on the line against Australia in the title game.
Fans all around the world eagerly await the climax of one of 2018's biggest sporting events.
This includes FIBA President Horacio Muratore, who spoke to FIBA.basketball about what's transpired so far in the competition and what's to come on the final day.
Can you share your thoughts on how this World Cup is going?
I'm very happy with how the competition has gone so far. We've had good crowds across both venues. This proves there's great interest from people who recognize this is a top-level competition with very good teams - including a really good Spain one. It all makes for some great games and an exciting tournament.
On FIBA's behalf, I want to thank the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for working with us to organize and host this tremendous edition of the competition.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Spain knows about basketball and the women's game. Not only that, it has expertise in women's sports more broadly.
I want to commend Spain, its sporting authorities, FEB and the LOC for their love of the women's game. This is best exemplified by the project 'Universo Mujer' which has been an integral part of this Women's World Cup since we attributed the hosting duties to Spain in 2016. The program has helped girls and women be involved in all aspects of basketball - both on the court and off of it. It has been used by companies to promote the sport which is obviously a good thing. I'm happy that the movement in Spain is very positive and I hope more countries will join it.
Last but not least this competition has turned out to be a great help as part of our movement to better the women's game. The passion, interest, awareness and coverage of this World Cup shows there's a great desire for more regular women's national team action and thanks to the FIBA Women's National Team Competition System coming into effect in November 2019, that's what we will be offering to players, teams, national federations and fans all around the world.
What has pleased you most from what you've seen on the court?
The level of play has increased to be the best we've had in this competition's history. In the past, we had a lot of ups and downs from some teams, but now I see the strong sides have come to play and be at their best level quite consistently. So that's very satisfying for us.
Something that's made me particularly happy is seeing teams from some of our regions surpass the expectations we - whether it's ourselves at FIBA, the media or even the fans - might have had of them.
One of the best storylines of this Women's World Cup without a doubt will be that Africa proved it has some very good teams in Nigeria and Senegal. These are teams that can play against anyone and I congratulate both of them for their campaigns.
Senegal had a historic win (against Latvia) and a great game against Spain (in Wednesday's Quarter-Final Qualifications). They made the tournament hosts tremble a bit. It would have been amazing for both African teams to reach the Quarter-Finals.
Nigeria outplayed the USA - the reigning world champions - in the first half of Friday's Quarter-Final and got wins over Turkey, Argentina and Greece. This is extremely positive for African basketball and for the sport in general.
Another pleasant surprise for me has been Belgium. This is their first participation in the Women's World Cup and they could come away with a podium finish.
They had an important win over Spain (in the Group Phase to automatically reach the Quarter-Finals) and they simply outplayed France in Friday's Quarter-Final. They operate at a very high level and play as a team. It’s wonderful to watch.
Australia have been even stronger than expected. This is a team that has often been right behind USA, finishing in second place. They have a dominant player in Liz Cambage. She was decisive in the Semi-Final against Spain and the team plays around her. She played her role. Both teams could have won what was a very difficult game. It was a game with a lot of passion and Cambage was fundamental to Australia's win.
Spain has some good players with experience and after Saturday's Semi-Final loss to Australia, they will want to reward their fans with a podium finish.
The Quarter-Final Qualifications clash between China and Japan filled me with a lot of satisfaction and it was one of those games where either team could have won. Both are at the top in their region. China won and that's in part down to a lot of physical preparation. I saw the game between China and USA (in the Group Phase) which was good but the one against Japan was better. I really enjoy watching China play.
As someone who is from the Americas region, you have a unique view of their teams. What have you made of their performances?
With Americas, you really have to split the teams according to the region's geography - North America, Central America and South America.
The USA and Canada of course play at a very good level, one that right now is higher than the rest. They came with their best teams.
The USA have shown once again that they have a very high level technically speaking. They also play with a lot of emotion.
I've seen Canada improve a lot from last year's Women's AmeriCup (which they won). Unfortunately, they lost against an improving Spain team (in Friday's Quarter-Final) and their very passionate fans.
Puerto Rico and Argentina played well too but not to the best of their abilities. I know them to have played better in other tournaments so I'm not sure why (they didn't play better). Maybe playing in the World Cup was too much. There was also the noticeable absence of Brazil who didn't qualify. I'm also positive Colombia could have played here too as they have good players.
Are there other aspects of the competition, on or off the court, that have met your approval, or maybe are encouraging?
We have 8 women referees (out of 27 total referees) and 4 women head coaches (out of 16 total head coaches) in this competition. It’s an improvement and we have to keep on working to get more women coaches and referees at the highest level. The work is currently taking place and this will please our national member federations.
What do you expect and look forward to on Sunday?
We're going to see exception action with the title game between USA and Australia and the 3rd-Place Game between Spain and Belgium. I'm very excited and I’m sure we will have an interesting and electrifying final day.