Three reasons Japan can win five titles in a row, three reasons China can end trophy drought
AMMAN (Jordan) - It's the title showdown that most people had anticipated heading into the FIBA Women's Asia Cup in Amman and both Japan and China have made it happen, setting up a potential classic matchup.
Here's our breakdown of why defending champion Japan could make it a stunning five straight titles and why China could end their agonizingly long wait of 10 years to get back on the top podium step.
Reasons Japan can win five titles in a row:
1. You get that sense they still have an amazing shooting performance to deliver
Japan have been up and down shooting-wise and for their high standards, this has certainly not been one of their better tournaments. However, have they saved the best until last? And, if they want to extend their streak of gold medals, they are going to simply have to shoot the lights out to take down China. It all starts with defensive rebounding which they have to do better so they can get out and run - hitting those transition triples like they did at Tokyo 2020.
2. Defense and ball pressure
Japan have shown they have suffocating defense which was the reason they made the Final itself. They were in trouble against the Opals in the Semi-Finals and it was their ball pressure that made the difference - forcing Australia into 23 turnovers. They always make like uncomfortable for their opponents and are relentless with the chasing, the quick hands, keeping in front of the dribbler and when you combine all those elements, they can be tough, tough, to play against!
3. The pressure is on China who can't fall short for a fifth consecutive time
It's simply unthinkable that a powerhouse China could go at least 13 years without winning a Continental title, but that will be the scenario if they fall short here in Amman. Not least after they crumbled in the last period of that game against Serbia in the Quarter-Finals of the Olympics. They are under huge pressure and that can be difficult to handle - especially as they don't have the experience of Meng Li and Ting Shao. Sure, there is pressure on Japan, but they have had a great 2021 with that historic Final at Tokyo 2020, have already claimed at least silver here and having made a change of coach and half their roster, they have already done great.
Reasons China can end their trophy drought:
1. They have the size and height advantage inside
The one big myth that needs destroying is that Xu Han and Yueru Li are both only about height. They are not. They are such skilled players who pass it nicely from the high post. However, they will be tough to stop on the block and all those second chance putbacks they get. China can make the most of Japan's very medicore rebounding display in this competition. Also in general, the wingers also have superior size for China and they can look to impose themselves physically because they showed against Korea they are also fine playing a high tempo.
2. They have superior bench depth and the in-form players
While Japan has rotated, they just don't quite seem to have as many impactful players as China, who were able to bring five off against Korea in the Semi-Finals and replace with another entire five without the level dropping. When Yueru Li steps out, they have Xu Han coming in for example. Liwei Yang or Yuan Li both do a great job at the guard spot, while they have so many other players who are really playing very well and also in All-Star Five contention - not least, forward Sijing Huang.
3. Revenge is a big motivator
It is not just 2019 that sticks in the throat and memory banks of China. They have suffered a Final defeat in three of Japan's four title wins. That is really going to hurt and they will be as motivated and as focused as any team could ever be to get revenge on their rivals. This game matters not only because of the silverware, but also because of the recent history and since it is a rivalry that is legendary in the wider context.