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22 September
01 October, 2022
Power Rankings: FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments
19/01/2022
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Power Rankings: FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments

SYDNEY (Australia) - With the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments coming rapidly into focus, which nations have the best prospects of making it to Sydney?

Taking into account form, rosters and, most importantly, the luck of the draw, the first volume of the Power Rankings throws up plenty of talking points. Not least, the impact of a potential 'Group of Death' in Osaka.

 

#1 USA USA  

Group: Washington DC (USA)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 1st

Is there any other position for the defending champions who are already qualified courtesy of last year's triumph at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?  With guaranteed participation and home court advantage in Washington DC, it will be interesting how new play-caller Cheryl Reeve approaches the event. Of course like every play-caller before her, she has an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Can you ever see a day when USA are not at the top of a power ranking anytime soon?

No, us neither! 

#2 Australia AUS  

Group: Belgrade (SRB) A
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 3rd

Already assured of their place for the main event in September as host nation, all eyes will be on Australia as they go to Serbia. It's going to be intriguing to see what team they field as perhaps more than any other participating nation, they have so many decisions to make from a huge list of players. The possibilities are endless for head coach Sandy Brondello.

They fielded 24 different players across the Tokyo 2020 and the FIBA Women's AsiaCup 2021 tournaments, the former seen as a disappointment and the latter a positive because they took bronze with an inexperienced team. While marquee star Liz Cambage is not part of the team at this point, the 2018 silver medalists still have a huge chance to use the team ethic to be successful. It's just whether the right line-up is selected and the competition for spots looks so intense!

 

Jean-Aimee Toupane jumped into the France coaching hot-seat last year after it was vacated by Valerie Garnier

#3 France   

Group: Belgrade (SRB) B
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 5th

While the coaching personnel has changed with Jean-Aimee Toupane taking over from the long-serving Valerie Garnier, the player mix still looks impressive and stable in terms of its quality, depth, and range of choice.

France didn't know whether to laugh or cry in 2021. They won silver at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 and then an Olympic bronze, yet it still felt like they came up short. These next couple of years are huge as they understandably have one eye on Paris 2024.

Toupane had a miserable start last November when they got hammered by Ukraine in a FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifier, but they shouldn't have a lot of trouble impressing in the Serbian capital next month. They have so many brilliant players across about three different broad age tranches, from young Iliana Rupert to Gabby Williams and Marine Johannes and then veteran double act Sandrine Gruda and Endy Miyem.  

#4 China CHN  

Group: Belgrade (SRB) B
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 7th

It's still an exciting time for China during these coming years - even if they couldn't land gold in 2021 at the FIBA Women's Asia Cup when pipped by Japan in the Final. They showed big promise at Tokyo 2020 and probably should have made the Semi-Finals.

China has a great mix of youth, experience, power, and poise. Their size, skill, and intensity provides a great platform, while they have class players in all areas of the court. Not least in the frontcourt with Yueru Li and Xu Han. With Sijing Huang as one of the most underrated players in the global game on the wing and Li Meng always liable to produce MVP performances, they should fancy their chances in Belgrade of rubber-stamping a place in Sydney, where if everything goes to plan, they might even have a tilt at the podium. 

Julie Allemand will pull the backcourt strings for Belgium in Washington DC

#5 Belgium BEL  

Group: Washington DC (USA)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 6th 

There's been a change at the top since they landed that bronze at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 and suffered heartache in the Olympic Quarter-Finals. The successful and historic era of Philip Mestdagh is over and Valery Demory must now carry the baton and keep taking the Cats forward.

It didn't start great with a loss in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but as long as they have Emma Meesseman and Julie Allemand on board, they look a top class team. With Antonia Delaere still an unsung hero on the wings and a raft of younger players coming through, led by Billie Massey and Maxuella Lisowa Mbaka, they are still a team to be reckoned with. It just remains to be seen if they can play the kind of beautiful team basketball that has so won them so many admirers during their rise to prominence.

#6 Russia RUS

Group: Washington DC (USA)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 12th 

A decade after their last global event when they competed at London 2012, which was more or less a swan song for a legendary golden era, this new generation have had to be patient. They now stand on the verge of finally making it to a FIBA flagship event again.

Much of their prospects will hinge on the incredible leadership and production of Maria Vadeeva and she is the key. During 2021, Nina Glonti stepped up and posted a breakout tournament with Raisa Musina always saving her best work for a national team vest. Those two will also be important, but Russia still have some steps to take. The playmaking options are still limited, but they appear hungry, moving in the right direction, and will relish playing Belgium - especially as they look for revenge for last summer's Quarter-Finals defeat in Valencia.

 How important is it for Serbia that head coach Marina Maljkovic has re-signed for another two years?

#7 Serbia SRB 

Group: Belgrade (SRB) A
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 10th 

Serbia have been weakened by the loss of their inspiration and driving force in the shape of the legendary FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 MVP Sonja Vasic, along with the brilliant and experienced Jelena Brooks. However, there are still plenty of positives especially with home advantage and the decision of head coach Marina Maljkovic to stay with the team for another two years.

She will be acutely aware that Serbia will have to play at a higher level as usual to be sure of making it (having missed out on the last edition). Thankfully she still has livewire playmaker Yvonne Anderson, the towering Tina Krajisnik, the in-form Aleksandra Crvendakic on the wing, and the ever-reliable Nevena Jovanovic.

#8 Japan  JPN 

Group :  Osaka (JPN)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th 

We know, we know. It seems crazy right? To have the Olympic silver medalists and a team that won their fifth FIBA Women's Asia Cup title last year down in 8th spot? Especially as they will have home advantage and willalso probably get some big-hitters back like Rui Machida and Ramu Tokashiki?

However, this ranking is a magnified reflection of the draw. While Japan are down in 8th overall, they are actually the first ranked team playing in Osaka. So they are effectively most likely to win that tournament. However, you have to take into account that playing Belarus, Canada, and Bosnia and Herzegovina could be very tricky and there is no margin for error. Then again, with their team ethic, hard work, speed, spacing, footwork, and shooting, they should be fine and have more than enough to advance.

Will 'Captain Fantastic' Adaora Elonu help Nigeria advance and overcome the absence of playmaker Ezinne Kalu?

#9 Nigeria NGR  

Group: Belgrade (SRB) B
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 15th 

On paper, Nigeria should take a ticket. After all, they are the reigning champions of Africa, appeared at Tokyo 2020 and have some top drawer performers.

Not least, powerhouse Evelyn Akhator who should be back after missing out in the Japanese capital last year. Victoria Macaulay adds further strength in the paint and captain Adaora Elonu always leads by example. They also have experience of beating Continental rivals Mali which they will probably need to do again in Belgrade to advance. But the pressure is on, especially as their prize playmaker Ezinne Kalu is unlikely to play as she is recovering from knee surgery. Their fate hangs in the balance and it really could go either way!

#10 Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group: Osaka (JPN)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 27th 

There is a lot of hype about Bosnia and Herzegovina after their brilliant 2021 which saw them make historic moves with a best ever 5th place finish at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket. They then beat Belgium in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers back in November which made a further statement about their potential.

Anything is possible with the brilliant Jonquel Jones, surely one of the top five players in the global game. They also have great support which can sometimes get overlooked such as Nikolina Babic and Marica Gajic - both very capable in their own right. The big issue ,and one that head coach Goran Lojo will be aware of, is that this is an incredibly tough group. They also have a lot of eggs in the Jones basket.

But with some luck on their side, the 'Dragon Ladies' could make more history.

Will the legendary shot-blocking Anastasiya Verameyenka continue to inspire Belarus at both ends of the court?

#11 Belarus Belarus

Group: Osaka (JPN)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 11th 

With a fragile and short roster, as well as a roller-coaster track record, you never quite know what you will get with Belarus. They went from not even qualifying for the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 to making the Semi-Finals last year.

Their success is built around their starting five and especially playmaker Alex Bentley who has grown a lot while wearing the jersey of her adopted country and now plays for powerhouse club UMMC Ekaterinburg. Anastasiya Verameyenka is a legend and continues to do it all in the forward spot, forming a terrific relationship with the underrated Maryia Papova. Those three are the key for Belarus - along with their suffocating defense and ability to control the tempo and make every contest a half-court game. They really are awful to play against and can be very hard to beat.

#12 Korea KOR 

Group: Belgrade (SRB) A
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 14th 

For so many years now, Korea have largely continued to make global tournaments and even with Australia and New Zealand joining the competition for Continental competitions is not completely ruling them out of contention.

Interestingly, they changed coach after a winless Tokyo 2020 where they were actually very competitive and subsequently made the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2021 Semi-Finals. If Jisu Park is back after missing the action in Amman, then things could be positive and they may have enough to beat Brazil. However, they have to play with incredible intensity and shoot the ball well - which they have not done enough. Making it to Sydney would be such a potential fairytale send-off for the amazing Danbi Kim who is getting ready to call time on her super national team career.

Will new head coach Victor Lapena make an instant impression holding the reins of Canada?

#13 Canada CAN  

Group: Osaka (JPN)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 4th 

Taking their time to appoint a new head coach after parting ways with Lisa Thomaidis who presided over a poor fourth placed finish last year at the FIBA Women's AmeriCup, as well as missing out on the Tokyo 2022 Quarter-Finals, this looks and feels like a transitional phase - maybe even a rebuild.

The appointment of Victor Lapena looks shrewd, although some will argue it is two, or even four, years too late. He's been talking about the medium to longer term future of the program, largely due to many veterans stepping aside, an injury to Kia Nurse, and three very difficult games in Osaka. Although Canada can't be ruled out completely as they still have some very good players, it just feels that even as the fourth ranked team in the world, qualifying would be a bonus rather than an expectation.

#14 Mali Mali

Group: Belgrade (SRB) A
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 40th

Mali can probably hear opportunity knocking loudly! A win against fellow African side Nigeria could be enough and it does not look impossible at all - especially if they can make sure they have the imposing Mariam Coulibaly on the floor with 2022 WNBA Draft prospect and youth sensation Sika Kone alongside her.

The biggest issue is likely to be backcourt scoring and whether the team can knock down some triples, which has been an issue in the past. Mali will be looking to make a return to the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup for the first time since 2012.

Will Damiris Dantas be the difference-maker for Brazil as she returns to national team action?

#15 Brazil BRA

Group: Belgrade (SRB) A
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 17th 

Considering Brazil finished in third place at the FIBA Women's Americup 2021 and above Canada, this is probably a harsh ranking. Especially as they will strongly fancy their chances of making it by beating Korea at least when they touch down in Belgrade. It's also harsh because they have a WNBA player back in Damiras Dantas.

On the flip-side, they don't have the veteran class of Clarissa Dos Santos who was their best performer in San Juan last year. Don't be surprised if they make this first ranking look foolish, but head coach Jose Neto knows his whole team must be at their best to prove the doubters wrong. 

#16 Puerto Rico PUR  

Group: Washington DC (USA)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 18th  

It might feel a little harsh on Puerto Rico who after all, are a top 20 ranked nation in the global game. However, you have to factor in both their disappointing efforts at Tokyo 2020 last year and also the fact they have been handed something of a nightmare draw. They head to Washington DC as massive underdogs.

USA look many steps above so they will focus on Belgium and Russia. The big issue is that stopping opposing frontcourt talents is not their forte and the Cats have Emma Meesseman, while Russia has another phenomenon in Maria Vadeeva. There's always a chance Jennifer O'Neill might show out and shoot the lights out for Puerto Rico, but in reality it looks like mission impossible.

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

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Power Rankings are put together by our panel, led by FIBA's women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen. He eats, sleeps and breathes female hoops and is incredibly passionate about the promotion of the women's game at all levels. Paul uses an extensive network of players, coaches, clubs and Federations to shape his work and opinions.