Eight must watch games of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers February window
MUNICH (Germany) - For as many as 20 different nations, it all boils down to this last FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers window when their hopes and dreams of advancing will be made and broken.
With 11 tickets still available for the showpiece event in Slovenia and Israel this summer, excitement levels will be turned up to the max across these last two gamedays. There is going to be so much to enjoy as always, but what are the truly must-watch games?
Here are eight that should definitely be on your list:
Thursday, February 9
Group E - Serbia v Croatia - 18.00 CET
Why is it must watch? - Firstly, it's a huge Balkan derby clash. Secondly, Serbia are reigning champions and will secure their ticket with a victory. Plus, Croatia might also manage to advance to the Final Round with a win, or even a tight loss if their basket difference proves to be sufficient as a runner-up. Serbia won 84-66 in the first meeting, but that was 14 months ago at the start of the campaign.
What are the key match-ups? - There will be a significant battle in the paint and this is the one area that Croatia may have an edge. Patricia Bura and Ana-Marija Begic were both on fire in the last window against Bulgaria as they put up big numbers and performances. This time it will prove more difficult against Tina Krajisnik in particular and how the Serbian leader performs could have a big bearing on the outcome.
Group B - Lithuania v France - 18.30 CET
Why is it must watch? - France are so close to their usual Final Round place but after Lithuania re-ignited their campaign with two wins in the last window, they are also back in contention. Ideally they need a victory and even if they lose a tight one against France, they can still cling on to maybe progress - or at least if they follow it up with a big win against Ukraine. France won the first matchup 83-56 but this one looks more than likely to be a whole lot different.
What are the key match-ups? - The big game know-how of the vastly experienced Gintare Petronyte will be priceless for Lithuania and it could be young Iliana Rupert who is tasked with competing against her. The home side need their star center to drop anchor in the paint and give them the platform to build from. Meanwhile, in the backcourt, it's offense against defense as Kamile Nacickaite looks to shoot Lithuania to glory and that might mean a job for Sarah Michel in terms of turning off this scoring tap.
Group A - Germany v Belgium - 19.00 CET
Why is it must watch? - The second window was transformational for both nations as Belgium cemented their status as favorites to win the group, while Germany came back from the brink to suddenly look like bonafide Final Round candidates. While Belgium will be huge favorites in this one as they look to secure a ticket, it's super important because a shock win for a Germany team now full of confidence, or even a narrow loss sets up a stunning last day showdown with Bosnia and Herzegovina that could be decisive. Even if Belgium won the first game 84-55, this one looks like being massively more competitive.
What are the key match-ups? - There will be a possible EuroLeague Women matchup between January MVP Emma Meesseman and Marie Guelich of Valencia Basket Club which will go a long way to determining the outcome of this crunch matchup. Also, the loss of the Cats' playmaker Julie Allemand to injury is a blow and so there is likely to be a strong emphasis on Julie Vanloo and her potential clash with Svenja Brunckhorst and Romy Bar.
Group G - Portugal v Greece - 21.30 CET
Why is it must watch? - Greece are unbeaten and so, so close to progressing, but Portugal on the road is a tricky test. Their opponents only lost to Great Britain in overtime in their previous home game. As well as Greece getting the win they need, if Portugal do manage to shine and cause something of an upset, they would also be in a strong position to possibly move forwards. Plus, the last contest between the teams was relatively close, with Greece taking a 64-57 triumph.
What are the key match-ups? - Maria Fasoula continues to be the go-to option in the paint for Greece and she has been the main pillar of their campaign. That should be no different in this contest and it is up to Portugal to try and counteract both her size and efficiency. That task is likely to fall upon the shoulders of Maria Kostourkova.
Sunday, February 12
Group B - Ukraine v Lithuania - 15.00 CET
Why is it must watch? - The second window was a huge disappointment for Ukraine who suffered two losses and now their prospects of advancing are hanging by the finest thread with only a spectacular win likely to be sufficient. However, depending on the result against France, this could be a truly huge game for Lithuania, who could have a better basket difference and opportunity to get themselves a ticket. Lithuania beat Ukraine 81-62 when they met last November.
What are the key match-ups? - Anything is possible, even for Ukraine in their current situation when someone like Alina Iagupova is around. We have seen her post breathtaking displays down the years and if she cuts loose, the alarm bells will ring for Lithuania and she could be the baller that sinks their chances completely. The experience of Kamile Nacickaite will therefore be important as she may be required to try and guard Iagupova.
Group G - Great Britain v Portugal - 17.00 CET
Why is it must watch? - Both teams should still have a chance of qualifying on the very last day and this was a classic game in the first meeting when Great Britain won 76-69 in overtime. Great Britain must firstly navigate Estonia and avoid a repeat of their shock loss in the first window against the underdogs, while Portugal come into this one after their clash with Greece. The most likely scenario is that Great Britain will need a healthy margin of victory if the 2019 semi-finalists want to make it back to the Final Round.
What are the key match-ups? - Great Britain will try to utilize their size advantage in this game, especially since Temi Fagbenle was exceptional in the previous game when she torched Portugal with 28 points. Alongside her, Kristine Anigwe had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Cheridene Green is back in the squad. That is something both Maria Kostourkova and Sofia Silva will be mindful of as they try to counteract this.
Group I - Czech Republic v Netherlands - 18.00 CET
Why is it must watch? - Providing no slip-up against Ireland first, a win in this one would mean that Czech Republic will top the group and advance with a win, or even with a narrow loss. They looked favorites by some margin when Netherlands lost centerpiece Emese Hof to a serious injury last autumn, but now their own marquee player in the paint Julia Reisingerova is also out, so that might balance things up beautifully. Meanwhile, Netherlands could also go through with a decent winning margin. The last time both teams met it was a hard-fought 71-66 for Czech Republic.
What are the key match-ups? - The do-it-all Gabriela Andelova could be vital as she has played only once in this campaign but that was against the Dutch when she played great and finished with 15 points. Laura Westerik may be a go-to player for the Dutch in the backcourt and on the wings as she can score in bunches, so both ballers may be very important to their respective teams.
Why is it must watch? - Both teams could still be in with a chance of qualifying in this last game, most likely as runners-up in the group behind Belgium. This will be tense and fascinating as it will also potentially hinge on basket difference as well. Much will depend on how Germany fare against Belgium in their meeting three days earlier. The previous matchup saw Germany hammering Bosnia and Herzegovina 97-58.
What are the key match-ups? - There will be an immense matchup between Courtney Hurt and Leonie Fiebich in the forward spot. The former has had to pick up the responsibility from Jonquel Jones in the naturalized position for the home team, while the latter has been on fire in EuroCup Women and shone in the last window. Both have put up productive numbers and super performances for each respective nation - but who will come out on top in this one?