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10 November, 2019
08 February, 2021
05/11/2019
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FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers Power Rankings, Volume 1

MUNICH (Germany) - The race to make it to the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 will soon be underway and it's time to reveal the first set of our Power Rankings.

With co-hosts of Final Round France and Spain not needing to participate in the Qualifying Windows, we're focusing on the  prospects of the 33 nations fighting it out for the remaining 14 tickets on offer for the flagship 2021 event - ranking them in order of who has the best prospects of progressing.

RANK

NATION

COMMENT

33

 ALB

Albania - Totally out of their depth in previous 2019 Qualifiers and gap was so wide they didn't get within 50 points of anybody. Closing that gulf is now the mission. Elektra Zykaj, Ornela Lalaj and Enxhi Xhanaj are the leaders, but Albania are in the worst possible group with Serbia, Turkey and Lithuania. It could get ugly quickly.

32

MKD North Macedonia - Started the previous Qualifiers by holding Italy to a single digit win, but then it collapsed - despite some big numbers from the naturalized Krisi Givens. Germany, Latvia and Croatia don't look like providing a much needed win although the draw could have been even more cruel.

31 

DEN

Denmark - It's a big welcome to the Qualifiers, having not previously taken part in the modern era. They should still be respected, since they were the gold medal winners at the FIBA Women's European Championship for Small Countries. They have a talented leader in Maria Jespersen and they have a nice crop of talented teenagers coming through. Czech Republic and Italy will be tough, but the games against Romania might be interesting.

30

BUL

Bulgaria - The 1990's when they had some great players and went to Final Round and challenged for the podium seems like a lifetime ago. They have stagnated and went 0-6 in the last Qualifiers. But facing Iceland gives them a chance this time for an overdue win - even if qualifying is out of the question.

29

EST

Estonia - Probably should have done better in the last Qualifiers when both winless and not able to challenge opponents as they were -180. This time, they have two intriguing games with Switzerland to try and get some confidence, since Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a mountain to climb. 

28 

FIN

Finland - Having a special player like Awak Kuier is a huge boost for Finland - although tempered by the retirement of the legendary Taru Tuukkanen. The big downer for them is being in a Group with both Belgium and Ukraine, while even Portugal will be tricky.

27 

SUI

Switzerland - They were 0-6 in the last Qualifiers when facing Belgium and Czech Republic was a mountain for them. Although they only lost to Germany in a one-shot game. With Estonia twice, there's a chance of an improved record - even if Qualifying is near impossible. All eyes on Marielle Giroud as usual.

26 

ISL

Iceland - They remain one of the minnows of the competition and were  0-6 in the last Qualifiers. This time around they will fancy their chances against Bulgaria and might feel they could shock Greece. Helena Sverrisdottir and Hildur Kjartansdottir are likely to be the main threats.

25

POR

Portugal - It has been a while since Portugal came anywhere near to realizing their potential. They are another nation with a sprinkling of good talents coming down the track. Maybe their confidence will be rocked from their 1-5 record last time. But you also need to dig deeper and appreciate they lost some very close games and it could have been very different. Belgium and Ukraine look tough and so much will hinge on them trying to beat Finland twice.

24

ROU

Romania - They did a double over Finland last time to finish 2-4 in the Qualifiers and certainly have big talent and leadership in Gabriela Marginean and the naturalized Ashley Walker. But, a serious injury to Claudia Cuic is a hammer blow and while beating Denmark in this group should be assured, it looks doubtful Romania can get a W against Italy or Czech Republic.

23

NED

Netherlands - They were 2-4 in the previous Qualifiers but still haven't proved themselves at this level by taking a scalp of a 'bigger team'. Hungary and Slovakia who are always a hard opposition and in the mix to qualify for Final Round. Presumably having Laura Cornelius and Emese Hof for all the games now they are pros rather than in the NCAA might help.

22

GER

Germany - Is this the time when they finally take a much needed step forward at the senior level? They have some amazing young players coming through the pipeline as well. Latvia and Croatia are not unbeatable, while North Macedonia should surely present two wins. They were 2-4 in the last Qualifiers and with Marie Gulich, Sonja Greinacher and Svenja Brunckhorst they have a solid base. Maybe they should be higher in our rankings?

21

ISR Israel - Always pushing to qualify but having not done so since 2011, missing the last four editions of Final Rounds hurt. They has the amazing Alysha Clark in the last Qualifiers and still couldn't do it. Now Sweden stands in their way and it will all come down to somehow beating Montenegro twice - but they look very light in the paint as usual.

20

POL Poland - Boosted by Maros Kovacik taking the reins, the CCC play-caller still has a huge task. There are some promising young players, plus legendary Ewelina Kobryn is back as Team Manager. But they would love having her on the court instead. The draw has been unkind and Poland have been paired with Great Britain and Belarus so no scope for confidence building against an underdog - rightly or wrongly, they are the underdog in this pool.

19

GRE

Greece - Playing without a string of their legendary players such as Evina Maltsi and Stella Kaltsidou is going to be difficult as even with them, they didn't punch a ticket to 2019 Final Round. They still have quality in Pinelopi Pavlopoulou and Artemis Spanou, but offense might be an issue collectively. They will probably need to beat Slovenia in one of the games to progress.

18

Montenegro - It was a harsh introduction for Jelena Skerovic at Final Round with big losses to France and Sweden, but they did shock everyone with the win against Czech Republic. Was it a one-off or can they repeat it? Glory Johnson was huge in the naturalized slot and we will have to see who plays. They have some key players like Bozica Mujovic and Milica Jovanovic, but no real depth and certainly facing Sweden in a three-team group is far from ideal. 

17

BLR

Belarus - They fought hard at Final Round in Zrenjanin before crashing out after the group phase. It felt like the end of an era. No Yelena Leuchanka and doubts over the future of Anastasiya Veramyenka. The draw with Great Britain and Poland does them few favors, so they will need all their personnel out firing. At least Mariya Papova has been showing good form.

 

16

SVK

Slovakia  - A respected underdog, it always seems like Slovak Republic either just miss out (like last time) or just slip in (like in 2017).  It is not likely to be any different this time. Juraj Suja has great quality in the backcourt with Barbora Balintova and Zofia Hruscakova in the frontcourt - plus the return of Regina Palusna. But there remains a depth issue and if anything happens to their main two players it could look impossible. Netherlands and Hungary could see 4 tight games in the group - do they have enough clutch performers?

15 

Turkey - The biggest surprise of our rankings? They might not advance from the Qualifiers for the first time since.... Well, ages. They were awful at Final Round in Nis and were home within 48 hours or so - at least eliminated. Isil Alben is classy, they have some good young players gradually emerging, but too many of the squad have not produced at the elite level. The pressure is on and the cracks have been shown. Now they face Serbia and Lithuania with real doubts as to their firepower - can they prove us wrong?

14 

LTU

Lithuania - Another difficult group should not be a source of torture. They can embrace the chance to play a Turkey side possibly on the slide and in transition. Granted, Serbia will be very difficult. Lithuania lost a bunch of close ones last time against Russia and Hungary - they know they can compete and have some super individual players. While most hype has been about 13 year old Juste Jocyte, the focus should be on super established senior players like Gintare Petronyte, Kamile Nacickaite, Laura Juskaite and so on!

13

Czech Republic - It is arguably most difficult to assess the prospects of Czech Republic than any other nation. They had injuries and many key players out at Final Round and yet beat Sweden which was great and the blew it completely by slipping up against Montenegro. Romana Hejdova of Basket Landes played really well and is enjoying a renaissance, but who will be back in the mix from those missing in Riga? Drawing a pool with Romania and Denmark will be a relief - even if Italy is not ideal as an opponent. 

 12

Latvia - With Martins Zibarts stepping aside, it's going to be a big challenge for new play-caller Martins Gulbis as Latvia look to rebuild yet again. Ravaged by injuries,(Kitija Laksa) absences (Anete Steinberga) and their disappointment at not naturalizing Shey Peddy in time for Final Round when co-hosts this past summer, they still did their country proud. Mainly down to some great work from Elina Dikaioulaku and Zenta Melnika. The formula looks simple this time. With North Macedonia two wins guaranteed, play well against Croatia and Germany and they'll be fine, but play poorly and they might get a nasty bite.

11

BIH

Bosnia and Herzegovina - They only just missed out on a historic maiden appearance at Final Round last time and they now have the prospect of the brilliant Marica Gajic being joined by WNBA star Jonquel Jones, who could occupy the naturalized slot. That would surely mean they can beat both Switzerland and Estonia home and away. Plus, the games against Russia, especially at home might present an opportunity.
 

10

Great Britain - Chema Buceta has been performing miracles and took his team to a historic Semi-Finals place in Belgrade and now they're still dreaming of Tokyo 2020. They have three genuinely top European competitors in Temi Fagenle, Karlie Samuelson and Jo Leedham-Warner, so they must be slight favorites in their group but complacency can't creep in - or the distraction of those Olympic dreams.
 

9

CRO Croatia - Perhaps the biggest surprise of our rankings outside of Turkey?Croatia had a tough group with Sweden and Italy last time and would have made it in most other pools. Anda Jelavic did some good work and now Stipe Bralic who coached them at London 2012 is back. The signs are good. They have some underrated players and some nice youngsters emerging. Marija Rezan will be vital as always and they will feel they have a great chance against North Macedonia, Germany and a Latvia side in transition.
 

8

Ukraine - Despite a rotten Final Round in Riga, they always seem to be at their best in Qualifying and nothing is likely to change. They have to find some defense which was AWOL in the summer. Leader Alina Iagupova has started well at Fenerbahce and with her avoiding injury or absence, they should have enough to see off Finland and Portugal - but can they stretch Belgium too?
 

7

Hungary - Will be thinking about that Great Britain game at Final Round when they should have made the Semi-Finals. Still, having surpassed expectations, they will be hoping to continue the momentum. Their young players have more experience now, the likes of Reka Lelik is playing great and Reka Dombai might be getting fast-tracked. They have two tricky group opponents in Netherlands and Slovakia, but should back themselves for a 3-1 record.
 

6

Sweden - Have exchanged Francois Gomez for former Italy head coach Marco Crespi and he will be confident he can get his new side through this Group. It won't be a walkover as Israel and Montenegro means 4 tricky games. They also need to make sure they don't have their minds on the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in February. The usual cast should be present and we're looking forward to seeing Kalis Loyd and Regan Magarity continue their evolution at this level after breakout showings in Riga and Belgrade this past summer.

5

Belgium - Yes, maybe they should be higher. We hear you all screaming. But we have some mitigating factors as to why they are 5th. This is about prospects of punching a ticket which they should comfortably do. But, their displays as a favorite at the last Final Round arguably posed more questions than it answered about mental strength and the depth of their rotation. There is a chance to perhaps fast-track some younger players and while it was magnificent seeing Kim Mestdagh and Emma Meesseman crowned WNBA champs, will fatigue be an issue? Having Ukraine (who usually save their best work for Qualifiers) is not ideal either – but the Cats should still be fine.

4

Serbia - They are coming into the Qualifiers for the first time since 2016-17 having been hosts for 2019 when taking bronze on home soil in Belgrade. They are on a roll and turning back to Marina Maljkovic was a masterstroke. Full of EuroLeague and EuroCup Women players, they have the talent and will be ready. However they will have to be 100% focused because Sonja Petrovic may not be back from injury and they are in the closest thing possible to a ‘Group of Death’ with Turkey and Lithuania.

3

Italy - They didn’t quite get it done in the summer and it is hard to decipher quite why. The easier answer is they just didn’t shoot well enough and execute. They have went back to the future by giving Andrea Capobianco a second spell at the helm and we think he will be thrilled with Czech Republic, Romania and Denmark. Sure, some danger, but opportunity knocks. Will Italy blood some rising stars alongside the big-hitters such as star player, Cecilia Zandalasini?

2

Slovenia - Second place may raise eyebrows but can we convince you by saying they have guaranteed chemistry, continuity, arguably the best backcourt options and rotation of anyone – plus a favorable draw? Their star names are so consistent in Nika Baric, Teja Oblak and Eva Lisec, while younger players like Zala Friskovec continue to improve. Iceland, Greece and Bulgaria should surely see them 5-1 at the very worst unless they have an injury crisis.

1

Russia - Why top of our rankings when they couldn’t even manage a top six finish at Final Round in Belgrade earlier this summer? We may live to regret saying this, but they have the easiest group on paper and should be a lock against Estonia, Switzerland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We basically feel they have the best chance of any nation to seal the deal. The lack of backcourt options is still a worry unless the naturalized Jamierra Faulkner can play. They do have Maria Vadeeva who even by her own high standards is on fire. It looks positive for new head coach Alexander Kovalev.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking systems. All comments are purely those of the author.

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