2014 is a massive year for basketball, both in Australia but also across the world. For the Opals, the feature event is the FIBA World Cup for women to be played in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey from 27 September to 5 October 2014. 24 teams from across the globe will converge on Turkey looking to win the what is now known as the World Cup, the pinnacle of basketball in global hoops.
The preliminary rounds are being played at Ankara Arena and Abdi Ipekci Istanbul, while the finals will all be held at Istanbul Sports Arena. The USA returns as the defending World and Olympic Champions and are widely considered to be the overwhelming favourites once again. The five FIBA federation champions looking to cause an upset include Spain (FIBA Europe), Cuba (FIBA Americas), Japan (FIBA Asia), Angola (FIBA Africa) and of course Australia (FIBA Oceania).
The World Cup gets underway with 16 teams across 4 groups, and this is how the draw panned out early this morning (16-Mar-14 Australian time): Group A: Ankara Group B: Ankara Group C: Istanbul Group D: Istanbul 1. Brazil (7) 1. Mozambique (38) 1. Korea (11) 1. Serbia (29) 2. Japan (17) 2. Turkey (13) 2. Cuba (14) 2. China (8) 3. Spain (6) 3. France (4) 3. Australia (2) 3. USA (1) 4. Czech Republic (5) 4. Canada (9) 4. Belarus (10) 4. Angola (20) NOTE: Current FIBA world ranking in brackets
2014 FIBA World Cup for women system of competition: Click Here
While there are no easy games at a World Cup, the USA appear to have earned a favourable draw in being grouped with lowly Serbia in their first World Cup appearance and #20 ranked Angola. Group A appears to be the toughest draw with the Czech Republic, reigning Eurobasket champions Spain and traditional powerhouse Brazil all ranked within the world's top 7.
Australia as the 2006 FIBA World Champions Australia return to the world stage after following a failed attempt at winning another medal in the 2010 edition held in the Czech Republic. New Head Coach Brendan Joyce will be looking to take the team one or two places better than the bronze medal earned at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Opals have been drawn in a relatively strong group featuring the talented perimeter shooting of Korea, the athletic style of Cuba, and rising European power Belarus. It is not what one would call a desirable group, but it could have been worse. Looking ahead into the draw, given that both the #1 ranked USA and #2 ranked Australia are in the same half, it paves the pay for the two rivals to meet in the semi finals should results play out. This is what Opal's coach Brendan Joyce had to say following the completion of the draw;
One thing is for sure, the Opals will have to be at their best to have any chance of a medal. For a host of likely Opals including Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Belinda Snell and Suzie Batkovic, this may be their last chance at doing so on the world stage. With a new breed of talented players ready to take over at the helm such as Elizabeth Cambage and Jenna O'Hea, the Opals have every chance of returning to the podium come October.
So which Group and draw is the toughest? Share your thoughts and post a comment!