Opals are headed to France on the road to qualifying for Tokyo
The Australian Opals pathway to the Tokyo Olympic Qualifying Tournaments draw ceremony at the Patrick Baumann House of Basketball, FIBA headquarters.
Sandy Brondello's team is headed to Bourges, France as a number one seed, drawn with world number 5 ranked France, South American powerhouse Brazil (15) and Puerto Rico (23) for the event to take place from February 6-9, 2020
Only the top 3 teams from each of the four groups - the other three being Belgrade, Foshan and Ostend - will qualify for next years' Olympics.
Despite having already secured qualification to the 2020 Olympics as World Cup Champions, the USA will be taking part in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, as will Olympic hosts Japan who are also secured of a place. Two teams from the FIBA Africa region have been included in Group A, ensuring a least one country from that region will qualify for the Olympics.
While the Opals will be a favourite to finish atop their group, France in particular who will also be playing in front of a home crowd are likely to be their most dangerous opponent, with no team a pushover.
The French lost to Spain in the final of EuroBasket and enter the event as the second best team in Europe. Brazil should be no easy beat either, with their only loss at the recent Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament for the FIBA Americas region coming at the hands of reigning World and Olympic champion USA. Like Brazil, Puerto Rico also finished second in their group in that tournament, with their only blemish being a 4 point loss to world number 4 ranked Canada.
Despite the Opals earning silver at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, their recent record in the Asian zone has not lived up to that reputation. They finished third behind Japan and China at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup, while losing again to Japan at the Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The fleet-footed, perimeter-shooting guards of Japan in particular have caused the Australian side headaches over recent years. Perhaps a return to competition against European and South American opponents for which the physically imposing Opals may be suited to playing, will be exactly the change Brondello has been longing for? Finish top three in their group, and they will be headed to Tokyo.
6-Feb: Opals vs France
8-Feb: Opals vs Puerto Rico
9-Feb: Opals vs Brazil