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What grade did each country receive for the November qualifying window?
MUNICH (Germany) - With the first window of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers in the rear view mirror, our panel takes a look at how each nation performed against expectation.
They've reviewed the respective displays of each country, taken into account any mitigating circumstances and the result of that is the following set of grades.
Austria competed again at this level in the November window following a lengthy absence
Current Record: 0-2 (4th in Group D)
November Window: v Poland (L) 19-125; v Slovenia (L) 127-28
Way out of their depth and not breaking 20 points in the first game, prior to not breaking 30 points in the second game, speaks volumes of how Albania fared in this window. They also had almost 30 turnovers per game. What else do you need to know?
Current Record: 0-2 (4th in Group F)
November Window: v Denmark (L) 82-48 ; v Montenegro (L) 60-70
Maybe harsh considering this was Austria's re-entry to this level after a lengthy absence, but it was perhaps reflective of how poor they were against Denmark in their opener. Their opponents gave them the best prospect of a victory, but Austria were way off the pace. They redeemed themselves with a more respectable home performance against Montenegro. While short of scoring power, they did a good job defensively and are in the top five in the steals chart.
Anastasiya Verameyenka was outstanding like always for Belarus as they posted an unbeaten start
Current Record: 2-0 (1st in Group I)
November Window: v Czech Republic (W) 60-66 ; v Netherlands (W) 83-72
They have a short rotation and over-reliance on 3-4 players, but Nataliya Trafimava and her team, like at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021, continue to get results. They play hard-nosed defense and, having won nicely on the road in Czech Republic, they squeezed out that overtime win at home to Netherlands - dodging a major bullet. The formula was familiar throughout, with Alex Bentley pulling the strings and scoring from the backcourt and frontcourt pair Anastasiya Veremeyenka and Mariya Papova doing the damage in the paint. Rock solid. Cut, paste and repeat.
Current Record: 1-1 (2nd in Group A)
November Window: v Bosnia and Herzegovina (L) 87-81; v Germany (W) 84-55
It could have been a nightmare for new head coach Valery Demory, but perhaps turned out to be more of a disappointment. Belgium were in big, big trouble against Bosnia and Herzegovina as they succumbed to the amazing Jonquel Jones, but a massive last quarter went a long way to repairing some serious damage. They still lost, but it at least made winning the group a realistic possibility. Especially as they responded with a massive win against Germany. Emma Meesseman came alive in that game and Antonia Delaere too. But they definitely missed Kim Mestdagh.
Bosnia and Herzegovina A+
Even if that poor last quarter against Belgium arguably took the shine off beating the Cats, you just can't do anything other than congratulate Goran Lojo and his players fo their efforts. They are in a great position to qualify now. Jonquel Jones was beyond brilliant with that mammoth display in the first game in particular. Simply unstoppable. But, behind every great performance is an important cameo, with Matea Tavic showing they are not completely a one-player team against Belgium. Nikolina Dzebo also had a solid first window too.
Current Record: 0-1 (3rd in Group E)
November Window: v Croatia (L) 73-84
Bulgaria's best chance of a victory in this group came and went without success. They competed hard against Croatia and you have to have some sympathy for a really difficult three-team group which also includes reigning champions Serbia. A really poor third quarter cost them and that is how brutal these qualifying games can be, one poor 10 minutes and your entire prospects are more or less over. Credit to Hristrina Ivanova for her performance.
Stipe Bralic endured a mixed window at the helm of Croatia as they beat Bulgaria but lost comprehensively to Serbia
Current Record: 1-1 (1st in Group E)
November Window: v Bulgaria (W) 73-84 ; v Serbia (L) 66-84.
Having dealt with early pressure against Bulgaria which saw Stipe Bralic and his side leak 27 first-quarter points, they responded well to get off to a winning start. But the loss to Serbia in the Balkan derby was disappointing. They had no answer for Aleksandra Crvendakic and a 14-31 second period was a disaster. Ana-Marija Begic played well across the two games, but there was a lack of consistency and support. More players must step up if they are to sneak through.
Czech Republic B
This was a mixed window. They played hard against Belarus but you never quite sensed they had that extra gear to outlast their opponents. They have limited firepower, especially without veteran shooter Ekaterina Elhotova, While the Czechs did get a win on the board against Ireland and there were positives from the likes of Veronika Vorackova, they need the talented Hulia Reisingerova to be even more dominant. She may be 23 years old and still quite young. but it feels like both she and Vorackova need to carry their team now - as difficult as that may be.
Losing to a very good Russia team is no disgrace by any means and the win against Austria in their opener was very impressive and well executed by Denmark, who continued the positive vibes from their previous qualifying campaign. While Maria Jespersen starred like previously, it was great to see others rising up such as Anna Seilund, who even made the Top Performers for Gameday 1. Reasons to be positive for the next 12 months and the next window!
Wow! Having suffered that really poor loss to Portugal, what a reaction! The nail-biting win against Great Britain was memorable enough by itself, but what a send-off for the long-serving legend Merike Anderson. She has not experienced many national team wins over her long career, so to sign off with one of the best was a perfect farewell. There was some good work from Kadri Ann-Lass and Maaja Bratka in the games, while credit to head coach Kaspars Majenieks for masterminding a win against a team that many had tipped for success.
Rising star Awak Kuier was absolutely immense for Finland
It would be unfair to be too critical of Finland as they were very competitive in both games - thanks mainly to their brilliant young center Awak Kuier who was sensational. But, she lacked support with too many other players not able to find their shooting range and also turning it over far too often. The way they pushed hard against Ukraine and came close to beating them should offer some heart, although France away next on the fixture list will be super difficult.
Maybe lucky not to get a C+ grade after their embarrassing capitulation in Ukraine, the debut of new head coach Jean-Aime Toupane was a nightmare. It was alarming how easy they were picked apart. The good news is that the reaction was strong as they blasted past Lithuania. But France surely shouldn't be losing in this group ,and certainly not by 19 points. That Ukraine defeat was a big wake-up call. They must focus on their finishing at the hoop and inside, because it is unheard of for a team like France to have barely scraped into the top 20 for 2-point shooting percentage.
An expected win against North Macedonia got them rolling, but the margin of defeat against Belgium was not good. Especially with talent like Marie Guelich, Leonie Fiebich and Luisa Geiselsoder in the team. Without Satou Sabally, they might be destined to never push for qualification. But they have 12 months to now take a look at things and get it right. If they get everyone on the floor, they could genuinely be a really tough opponent.
Great Britain C
Just not good enough. Not having Temi Fagbenle was mitigation for the Brits, especially against Greece, but the loss to Estonia was not acceptable even without their star center. They had enough to beat an underdog like that, but to start 0-2 in what was a dream group - on paper at least - is not quite a disaster, but could be. It was poor and they can do so much better. With three of the expert panel tipping Great Britain to make a return, it underlines just how bad a 0-2 start actually was.
Greece enjoyed a positive window with two wins and Maria Fasoula particularly impressive
Current Record: 2-0 (1st in Group G)
November Window: v Great Britain (W) 66-73; v Portugal (W) 64-57
All power to new head coach Petros Prekas for such a great start to life at the helm of Greece. Two wins and it's advantage to them in this group and especially for beating Great Britain on the road. They also did it without Anna Spyridopoulou and Eleanna Christinaki, but Maria Fasoula and Artemis Spanou stepped up. The performance against Portugal was not wholly convincing, but two seven-point wins is an excellent return in a balanced group.
It was almost a dream start for Hungary but they just didn't quite have enough against Spain and could not slow down Maria Conde. Although rather than a missed opportunity, it should give them confidence that they can push on and maybe challenge Spain in the return game. Cyesha Goree and Bernadett Hatar are an imposing twin-towers pair as they showed against Iceland, and they have some good young players finding their feet, so the future could be bright.
Iceland can perhaps reflect on how they might have felt slightly better if their worst performance had come first, rather than second. Being blown out so brutally on your home court is tough to handle. Against Romania they at least gave themselves a chance of victory and played some decent basketball. It just feels at times that Sara Run Hinriksdottir is fighting a solo battle in trying to get points on the board.
Another grade which can maybe be filed in the drawer marked 'harsh', Ireland coming into the Qualifiers was far from a disaster. They lost big twice, but there are some positives and not least how hard they worked, the fact they shot the ball decently from downtown and how well Clare Melia played. Maybe in the next window they can move to B- if they continue to grow the modest green shoots of promise they showed.
Current Record: 0-1 (2nd in Group J)
November Window: v Latvia (L) 56-62
Is the glass of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 co-hosts half-full or half-empty? They could have won, but then maybe shouldn't have lost. It depends on your perspective of course. The good new is that they had Latvia in real trouble and played well defensively. They don't have a lot of offensive options, which is obvious, but what a bright spot Yarden Garzon is for the future.
Italy squeezed out a precious road win against Slovakia having looked like they might lose
Current Record: 2-0 (1st in Group H)
November Window: v Slovakia (W) 66-69 ; v Luxembourg (W) 82-48
It was a really positive window for Italy results-wise, although there is no A or A+ grade for Lino Lardo and his ballers as they did ride their luck in Slovakia and things could have gone the other way. Still, huge credit for these two victories. Nicole Romeo was superb in game one, while it was good to see teenage star Matilde Villa debut against Luxembourg. After a disappointing FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 campaign in Valencia, this window is exactly what Italy needed.
If any nation took a leap towards qualifying for 2023 then surely it was Latvia, as they beat both Israel and Sweden in their three-team group. They started horribly on the road in the early part of that Israel game but dug it out, prior to cruising past Sweden off the back of a ruthless and dominant display from centerpiece Anete Steinberga. They're now possibly just one win away from potentially booking their place, but who knows? Maybe a 4-0 group sweep is coming!.
Drawn in a tough group with France and Ukraine for company, Lithuania performed adequately against Finland to get a double-digit win. They then lost heavily to France but, to be fair, they were the victims of a French backlash. Maybe B is generous and it could have been a B-. Their 1-1 record is exactly what would have been predicted after the first window and so it has proved. Laura Juskaite and Gintare Petronyte were probably the pick of the crop.
While two losses were picked up by Luxembourg, they performed well in the contest against Switzerland and almost pulled off a famous victory. Losing heavily to Italy on the road was expected by everybody. On that basis, this was not a disaster, there are things to build on and if they can take care of the ball better, it would really help.
This was average from Montenegro. Basically mediocre. They were well beaten by Russia and you would have expected something more perhaps - even if they were without the now retired Jelena Dubljevic. They also labored their way to a modest win against underdogs Austria, and even that took a big show from Markeisha Gatling. They can do better than this and must do so in the next window.
Netherlands and their new playcaller Julie Barennes endured a tear-jerker in Minsk as they lost to Belarus in overtime
With new playcaller Julie Barennes in place, this proved to be a very encouraging opening for Netherlands as they cruised past Ireland in front of a big home crowd which was also great to see. It could have been a perfect window and they came so close to upsetting Belarus as they eventually lost out in overtime in Minsk. Kourtney Treffers and Emese Hof look like a really nice combo in the paint and with Janis Boonstra also an option, things look bright.
North Macedonia C+
The opener against Germany was a nightmare and while they suffered another big loss in the second game, losing by 16 points against a team containing the in-form Jonquel Jones was not that bad. However, North Macedonia did have DeWanna Bonner for this one so might have expected even more. Truth is, it's going to be another long campaign.
After wiping out Albania as predicted, Poland were completely locked down against Turkey and only just scraped past the 40-point mark. This is alarming, and a clear sign of the offensive struggles they have. Defensively and in terms of their ball pressure and steals they are well organized as you would expect under Maros Kovacik, but to have any chance of progressing, they need to find that higher gear at the other end of the floor and make some shots.
Portugal gave themselves a jump start in the campaign with a big opening-day win against Estonia in Matosinhos
While their record reads 1-1, this was a really impressive first couple of games for Portugal who raced past Estonia at home in Matosinhos and then really pushed Greece hard on the road and showed they could cause a surprise or two, during these next windows. Laura Oliveira Ferreira led nicely, the experienced Sofia Silva was a rock and Marcia Da Costa Robalo showed she could be a big influence with her scoring ability. A positive opening for Portugal for sure.
After a completely underwhelming campaign during the previous qualifiers, when they lost to Denmark and were on the wrong side of some big headlines, This time around, Romania at least started with a win. It was a tricky fixture against Iceland but they just about got it done as Nikolett Orban came up with a huge display. The game against Spain was one to forget, but 1-1 is probably what was anticipated ahead of the window.
Russia continued the momentum from their impressive showing in Valencia at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021. The same formula applied as Maria Vadeeva led the way, Raisa Musina impressed alongside her, with Marina Goldyreva and Anastasiia Shilova showing a scoring touch. Russia have every chance of going unbeaten on this form.
Current Record: 1-0 (2nd in Group E)
November Window: v Croatia (W) 66-84
An excellent start to their title defense, Serbia coasted to the win against Balkan rivals Croatia. Without two ultimate leaders in legendary pairing Sonja Vasic and Jelena Brooks, there was an element of turning the page, with Aleksandra Crvendakic picking up the leadership baton and dropping a sparkling 33 points, while Tina Krajisnik was impressive as ever in the paint. They look a lock to qualify already.
Slovakia must be wondering right now what might have been after they lost in agonizing fashion and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Italy. Thankfully, they did make some amends and take some pressure off with a win against Switzerland. They need to shoot the ball better from long range and that might help them break 70 points, because there is a big squeeze and reliance on the defense when you are only scoring in the mid-60s.
New Slovenia head coach Giorgios Dikaioulakos did not have the start he had dreamed off
What a nightmare opening that was for new head coach Giorgios Dikaioulakos. Just when the 2023 co-hosts needed to put their underwhelming performance at the 2021 edition behind them, they got absolutely overwhelmed by a Turkey team that is not exactly packed with talent. Yes, Slovenia was missing their marquee star Eva Lisec, but even still, they way they lost was not great, to say the least. A win against Albania has to also be put into context. Overall, this window was not what was expected and at least there is no pressure of needing to qualify.
New head coach Miguel Mendez was left sweating in his first game at the helm, but Spain survived and considering on paper it was their most tricky game, things look very rosy now. They also didn't have Astou Ndour, so a pair of wins was just what was needed. Maria Conde was brilliant, while it was also heartening to see a new face like Irati Etxarri drop 21 points against Romania. It was not vintage Spain across the window, but the results were familiar.
Current Record: 0-1 (3rd in Group J)
November Window: v Latvia (L) 89-70
A new unique coaching system in place, a team without their experienced stars and with many young players, this all showed against Latvia. In total transition, the fans will have to be patient. But this was not really good enough, even for a young team. Better times should be lying ahead - even if qualification now lies in the balance. With a double against Israel and a home win against Latvia, they could still do it. Especially with Klara Lundquist in the mix who had a fine 21 points and 10 assists against Latvia. But they really do need to have the likes of Regan Magarity back in the paint.
Current Record: 1-1 (3rd in Group H)
November Window: v Luxembourg (W) 54-58 ; v Slovak Republic (L) 50-65
This was a confidence-boosting window for the Swiss. Yes, they maybe should have been more dominant against Luxembourg, but they got the win and then played well defensively against Slovakia, but did not find their shooting range. What about Evita Herminjard by the way? She was outstanding in this window!
Turkey defied predictions and expectations with a huge road win in Slovenia
Current Record: 2-0 (1st in Group D)
November Window: v Slovenia (W) 62-78; v Poland (W) 52-41
Who saw this coming? Probably not many people, since Turkey were missing some big names. However, they absolutely jumped all over Slovenia and then threw a defensive blanket over Poland to make it a super window and take control of the group. Kiah Stokes dominated the glass and Olcay Cakir Turgut reminded everyone of her guard skills with a nice show alongside the experience of forward Bahar Caglar Okten.
Probably their best win in recent memory, they didn't just defeat the five-time runners-up of the competition and recent Olympic bronze medalists, they brutally dismantled them. It was a great team effort. Yes, Alina Iagupova was doing Alina Iagupova things, but others like Tatiana Yurkevichus and Krystyna Filevych were super too. They dodged a bullet against Finland, but right now, who cares? They have a great platform to not only qualify, but win their group.
*The gradings are entirely subjective. All comments are purely those of the author.
The FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers Team Grades 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.