Will Australia really handle the pressure to make the podium?
SYDNEY (Australia) - Host nations have sometimes used the energy and support of the home crowd to thrive and take medals down the years, but others have buckled under the weight of expectation.
After their impressive Group Phase play and subsequent Quarter-Finals victory against Belgium, the Opals are one win away from taking yet another medal.
"WE ARE TRYING NOT TO VIEW PRESSURE FROM A NEGATIVE STANDPOINT.... WE ARE WORKING TOGETHER TO BAT THEM AWAY AS A GROUP." - Cayla George
Ready to face China in the Semi-Finals, they have the roster and basketball talent to emerge victorious - albeit against a very, very good team, but can they really handle the pressure? Not only in this game, but should they lose, in any Third-Place Game on Saturday which would determine whether they take a podium step or not?
After all, on what was a highly anticipated opening night built around the comeback of Lauren Jackson and in front of a huge crowd, they stumbled. One Opals' baller adamant they can and will deal with it is center Cayla George, who made the Quarter-Finals Top Performers with 19 points and 9 rebounds against Belgium.
"There is a lot of added pressure being at a home in a World Cup," she admitted.
"But we have been able to have a lot of different people around us and we have even spoken to the 1994 Opals team that were the last to play on home soil. We asked for some advice from them and they had some really great feedback about it."
George is also acutely aware that success, or otherwise during tournament crunch time may have a big impact on the longer-term assessment and impact of the competition.
"THE TRULY BIG MOMENTS ARE NOW COMING... I THINK THAT IS ACTUALLY PART OF THE FUN. THE TEST OF WHETHER YOU CAN COME THROUGH IT." - Cayla George
She said: "It's always a great time to be an Opal but especially now in terms of where our culture is at and how everyone is here for each other and wanting to continue an amazing legacy with what we do here in Sydney.
"We have the right mindframe to understand just how big an event this is, but also how we have each other's backs. We are trying not to view pressure from a negative standpoint. Obviously these things can creep in at times but we are working together to bat them away as a group.
"Lauren [Jackson] has had some great advice for all of us and she is the most feared Opal of all-time. Her being around the group is invaluable and I have also been trying to put some of the younger players under my wing a little bit," continued George.
"I think the truly big moments are now coming and a lot of our players have been through this kind of thing previously. I think that is actually part of the fun - the test of whether you can come through it.
"When you get there and you do it, it's a truly amazing feeling. We did it four years ago in Tenerife when we beat Spain in that Semi-Final in front of all their fans.
"It was absolutely unreal and we'd settle for winning another Semi-Final like that again for sure," concluded the center.