Group D favourites France are out for another Final repeat
SOPRON (FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2016) – With a number of returnees and the addition of some talented players, France can be confident of yet another push towards the podium at the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2016.
It’s an event which has seen France become a regular fixture in the title game and incredibly, they are pursuing a sixth straight Final appearance. Five of the players who won silver last year in Celje are back, including Gassa Djaldi-Tabdi who posted a double-double in the big game, but couldn’t prevent her team from slipping to defeat to Spain.
Another stellar talent is Alexia Chartereau and don't be surprised if she ends up in the All-Star Five, since Tango Bourges recently snapped her up and she can look forward to a EuroLeague Women debut later this year.
Meanwhile there are several players arriving via Zaragoza and the recent 2016 FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship, with Emmanuelle Tahane particularly impressive in the paint, and both Tima Pouye and Kadiatou Sissoko adding extra options on the wings.
Perhaps pushing a strong French team and with the added bonus of home support, are Hungary. Their team has many 1999-born players who missed out on that FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship and also on a medal at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2015 as the wheels inexplicably flew off after a blistering start.
Dorka Juhasz and Reka Lelik are both high-quality players and likely to be influential in Sopron as they look to make amends. Agnes Studer is also likely to make the big plays and all three will benefit from the involvement of EuroLeague Women and Hungary national team legend Dalma Ivanyi on the coaching staff.
As hosts of the previous edition of this event, Slovenia managed a top-five finish last year but may find a repeat very difficult without the now departed team leaders Annamaria Prezelj and Larisa Ocvirk.
Aleksandra Kroslej brings experience of playing with Slovenia at the event last summer and should be a big factor this time around.
However, there are some returnees in the likes of Aleksandra Kroselj who is an exciting guard that might be able to take a step up this summer. She amassed more than 16 points per game at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B 2015, as Slovenia just missed out on promotion. Slovenia’s other big danger is likely to be the physically strong Teja Gorsic under the basket.
Croatia would love to retain their status in the top tier for another year as they are currently on their longest-ever Division A run in any category. This fifth consecutive appearance at the event will see them try to overcome a difficult opening pool and much is likely to depend upon whether they can produce right down the roster.
Last year’s campaign was based heavily around the exceptional talent of Ivana Dojkic who is no longer eligible. That means playmaker Valentina Simunic will have to come to the party and find her range from deep, having played a solid role in Celje last summer. Moving up will be a number of handy players, including Josipa Pavic who will do the business on the glass, while Matera Tadic could also be a big contributor and will certainly set the tone defensively.