FIBA WBB World Cup Qualifiers preview: Belgium seek 2nd place

Today is Thursday of Emma Meesseman week. It’s a big day for her as the FIBA ​​Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifiers begin today here in DC! Here’s our preview of the teams in Group D.


The schedule

Thursday, February 10, 2022 at ESA

  • Belgium vs. Puerto Rico, 4:30 p.m. ET

Friday, February 11, 2022 at ESA

  • United States vs. Belgium, 6:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, February 12, 2022 at ESA

  • United States vs. Puerto Rico, 4:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, February 13, 2022 in the Dominican Republic

  • Russia vs. Belgium, 3:30 p.m. ET

Monday, February 14, 2022 in the Dominican Republic

  • Russia vs. Puerto Rico, 6 p.m. ET

No. 6 Belgium

What is their nickname? Belgian cats, whatever the language. (They are not called From Belgische Katten by Dutch speakers or Belgian Cats speak French).

Why are they here? They were the third-place team in the Women’s EuroBasket last year.

Who is the most remarkable player of the Belgian team? COME ON GUYS! WHO’S WEEK IS IT!?

Who left Team Belgium? Head coach Philip Mestdagh was fired (or fired, depending on which team you believe) after the Olympics, where the Cats were eliminated in the quarterfinals despite a fairly clear path to the medal game. gold considering their talent. Team captain and former WNBA No. 1 draft pick Ann Wauters has retired. Kim Mestdagh, a former Mystic, sat out the Cats’ qualifier for Women’s EuroBasket 2023 last fall.

What’s at stake? Since the departure of Philip Mestdagh, the Cats have hired ASVEL Lyon head coach Valery Demory to lead the national team. The Cats started their 2023 Women’s EuroBasket qualifier on the wrong foot, losing for the second time in a matter of months to Bosnia and Herzegovina (the country WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones represents), 87-81 on November 11. In that game, Jones scored 44 points while Meesseman herself had an 18-point night, but wasn’t as dominant. They are currently 1-1 in their qualifying group.

These current qualifiers will give the Cats one more chance to make a World Cup as Meesseman is in his prime. Belgium is no longer the Cinderella the world of women’s basketball talks about. Despite now being a world power, the Cats still haven’t broken the ‘beer glass ceiling’ of making a finals appearance at EuroBasket or a global tournament – and they have lost to teams that ‘they probably shouldn’t have had, like Japan in the Olympics.

Who to watch? Emma… DUH!

But I would also look at Chicago Sky point guard Julie German and former WNBA point guard Hind Ben Abdelkader. German made the All-Rookie Team for the fever in the 2020 season before being traded to Chicago. And Ben Abdelkader has played in both NCAA Division I (at Cal) and the WNBA, but for some reason has never made the Cats roster until now. That said, expect Ben Abdelkader to back German, who is widely regarded as the team’s second-best player.

No. 1 United States

What is their nickname? Team USA or The Americans

Why are they here? The United States won the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and will compete in the 2022 World Cup. They have yet to participate in the qualifiers, which makes these games friendly matches from FIBA’s perspective.

Who has left the American team since the Olympics? Head coach Dawn Staley will not be returning for the 2024 games in Paris. Sue Bird has retired from international play. Diana Taurasi has not ruled out continuing her international career but will not take part in qualifying.

What’s at stake? This is Head Coach Cheryl Reeve’s first time as head coach of Team USA. This is her opportunity to implement her ideas for Team USA in a “safe space” where she can take risks that otherwise might not happen in a game with a berth or medal on the line. American players, young players will have the opportunity to play against two of the best teams in FIBA ​​Europe, both of which are likely to play in Australia.

Who to watch? Washington Mystics Guard Ariel Atkins. She played sparingly at the Olympics, but will likely play a bigger role, and she will be in front of her home team’s fans. Additionally, former Mystics (and now New York Liberty) center Stefanie Dolson is on the team. The rest of the list is here.

No. 12 Russia

What is their nickname? Like the United States, it is only the Russian team or the Russians.

Why are they here? They were the sixth-place team in the Women’s EuroBasket last year.

Who are the most famous Russian players? UMMC Yekaterinburg striker Maria Vadeeva and Dynamo Kursk striker Raisa Musina are Russia’s biggest stars. Vadeeva played one season for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2018 but is apparently not part of this qualified team. So Musina is the one I would watch.

What’s at stake? Russia has experienced the exact opposite situation to that of Belgium over the past 5 to 10 years. They were a world power in the 2000s but lost a march. Russia haven’t made the EuroBasket semi-finals since 2013, haven’t been to the World Cup since 2014, and haven’t been to the Olympics since 2012. Despite their decline in Europe over the the last decade, the Russians are still the 12th ranked country. in the world and it’s a favorable group for them to break their World Cup drought.

Why isn’t Russia playing DC? Russians have had visa complications due to coronavirus vaccine requirements to enter the United States. Russia primarily uses its national vaccines, such as Sputnik V to combat COVID-19, which the CDC does not recognize. They will play their two games in the Dominican Republic against Belgium and Puerto Rico starting next Monday, which will give them a significant rest advantage.

Meesseman wasn’t happy about it, to say the least.

No. 18 Puerto Rico

What is their nickname? 12 Magnificas or 12 Guerreras

Why are they here? They were the FIBA ​​Women’s AmeriCup silver medalists last year.

Who are Puerto Rico’s most notable players? Among the players on the 2020 Olympic team, Jazmon Gwathmey is a native of Fauquier County, Va., was CAA Player of the Year for three years at James Madison during her college career from 2012-2016 and played three years in the WNBA. . Jennifer O’Neill played one season with the Minnesota Lynx in 2015 after a four-year college career at Kentucky. Allison Gibson played four years for Oregon State from 2011 to 2015. Most Puerto Rican players played at the NCAA Division I level before continuing their professional careers. Gwathmey and O’Neill were the AmeriCup’s two leading scorers and are the players to watch.

Why does Puerto Rico have its own national team when it is part of the United States? In short, the International Olympic Committee team can unilaterally decide whether a country or region can have its own Olympic team, whether or not it is a sovereign state. Although Puerto Ricans are Americans and can play for Team USA, they can also play for Puerto Rico specifically if they wish.

There are other countries/territories with their own Olympic team despite not being sovereign states. For example, Aruba is part of the Netherlands but has its own Olympic committee instead of competing with the Dutch. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are part of the United Kingdom but do not compete as part of Team Great Britain. Taiwan and the State of Palestine are not recognized as sovereign states by the United Nations, but they also have their own Olympic teams, with the Taiwanese competing as “Chinese Taipei”. Guam and the US Virgin Islands also have their own Olympic delegations despite being US citizens like Puerto Ricans.

What’s at stake? The Puerto Ricans are coming off their first Olympic berth last year and their first World Cup berth in 2018. Of the three teams vying for a World Cup berth this year, they will be the underdogs on paper. But since most of this team is made up of professional players who went to college through NCAA Division I programs, they could still go up against Belgium or Russia, even if defeating the american team will always be a difficult task.


Who makes the Group D World Cup apart from the United States?

While Puerto Rico might make things interesting for a game, I predict Belgium and Russia will move on to the World Cup.

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