26 July, 2021
08 August
9 Meng Li (CHN), 14 Yueru Li (CHN)
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Agony and ecstacy on dramatic display to finish the day in Tokyo

TOKYO (Japan) - The margin between success and failure in sport is notoriously fine, a line that was brutally exposed in a dramatic finale to the day's action as China pipped Australia 76-74 in a thriller.

In what was an epic roller-coaster for the teams completing today in their second Group Phase games, the day was perhaps best summed up by the fact that the Opals looked out of contention but turned things around with 27 points in the last period. This included a huge triple from Jenna O'Hea with just two seconds left that tied the game. Overtime looked certain.

However, China had other ideas as they lobbed the ball into Yueri Li under the hoop after a timeout and she was able to calmly sink two free throws after being fouled. It meant that just 90 seconds or so after the joy of thinking they had the momentum, the Opals' jubilation turned into  despair as they watched their opponents wrap up a place in the Quarter-Finals.

As China celebrated on court, Australia were left 0-2, with their hopes of making the Quarter-Finals hanging by a thread. The loss was tough on young Ezi Magbegor, who played brilliantly again to finish with 15 points. More of that will be needed in their last Group Phase game against Puerto Rico should they entertain thoughts of advancing into the tournament's knockout rounds.

China had Siju Wang to thank for leading the way. She was terrific with 20 points and 5 assists, while head coach Limin Xu was left full of praise for his young team.

"Today we had a victory against the number two team in the world and it was a tough game, but all of our training and preparation paid off - it was all for the glory of this moment," he enthused.

Added playcaller Li:"There were still some weaknesses that were exposed and our tactics and experience is still behind where we want it to be, but our true spirit and fearlessness eventually helped us to win." 

The victory of China was celebrated by three other nations. Spain, sat in their hotel having won against Serbia to go 2-0 yesterday, were confirmed as being in the last eight.

Meanwhile, the final result handed another historic milestone to first-timers Belgium, who were just too deep and too good for Puerto Rico. They dazzled with an 87-52 triumph, with a familiar blueprint of Emma Meesseman leading the way as she continues to fly the flag for the debuntantes. She produced another phenomenal display after harvesting 26 points, 15 boards and 6 assists, but it was a total team effort from Belgium with a string of other headline performances.

Not least, the impressive sister act of Hanne and Kim Mestdagh  combined for 33 points in the contest and had everyone rummaging through archives to find out if any siblings had managed more. The answer to that question remains on ice - as does Belgium's first-ever taste of defeat at the Games  - although China in their last Group Phases game will be a major test.

USA also moved into the Quarter-Finals - even though they labored early against Japan. But they got stronger as the game went on, easing their way to an 86-69 victory. Again it was an Olympic debutant in A'Ja Wilson that proved influential alongside teammate Breanna Stewart. Both had double-doubles, the former with 20 points and 10 boards, while Stewart garnered 15 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists.

Lastly, France boosted their chances of progressing as they routed Nigeria 87-62, to get their first victory at this tournament. They put their foot on the accelerator from the second period onwards and never looked back as they completely outplayed their opponents. Gabby Williams impressed with an all-action show of 13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.