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Raincock-Ekunwe and Canada ready to deal with Quarter-Final mind games
TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and Canada on Friday will be out to show they can land in the Semi-Finals of a global tournament and deal with the pressure of having a favorite in their path.
They will head into yet another Quarter-Final match-up as underdogs when they step out against FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 hosts, Spain. Even if, on paper at least, there does not look to be anything between both sides.
However one big difference is that Spain have had a recent history of competing in global Finals, making the title game in the last edition of this competition and then also taking a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.
In contrast, a hugely talented Canada side have only knocked on the door. They were beaten 63-52 in Istanbul in 2014, also losing at the same stage against the USA at the London 2012 Olympics and to France in Rio two years ago.
With their last Semi-Final place at the Women's World Cup coming in 1986, surely it is time to push through the door and finally march towards the podium steps.
"We've been working with our sports psychologist a lot this summer - doing a lot of mental training," Raincock-Ekunwe said. "I think it's just mental toughness and not giving into the pressure of the game. I think that's what got to us in the past. So it's about staying calm for the entire game.
"Spain will be tough, most definitely. We haven't played them in a while, but I think we match up pretty evenly. They have good 'bigs 'who are athletic and smart guards, so it could be a really good game."
The signs are positive for Canada.
They were trailing France in their last Group Phase game by a huge margin but then showed the fortitude to flip the game on its head and take top spot in the Group. Raincock-Ekunwe was the driving force behind the victory.
From -15 to +11! Canada overcome a double digit deficit, go on and win by double figures in a direct duel with France for the first place in #FIBAWWC Group A— FIBA (@FIBA) September 25, 2018
Highlights @CanBball 🇨🇦vs🇫🇷 @FRABasketball ⤵ pic.twitter.com/dLxN9NYDbP
"I'm really happy with how we played," she reflected. "Finishing top of the group and advancing directly to the Quarter-Finals was our goal coming into the tournament and this is exactly where we want to be.
"I'm very proud of the team."
The result handed them the chance to take two days rest and for Raincock-Ekunwe, that means increasing the intensity within the Group itself.
"I think it's going to come down to our practices - we can't take it easy. We have to push each other still and we can't let up at all," she warned. "We have to have great practices and we'll be ready."