After earning a bronze medal at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup, the Opals now have set their sights on qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, and this week FIBA unveiled the pathway that they, along with all other nations, must navigate to get there.
While the qualification pathway may not be straightforward, one thing is for certain - qualifying for the Olympic Games will not be easy for anyone.
There are five regional pre-qualifying tournaments that will feature 22 countries that will compete from November 10 - 18 this year. Africa are hosting one tournament (Mozambique) with 6 countries in action, the Americas will have eight nations across two tournaments (Canada and Argentina), while Asia-Oceania will also feature eight countries across two tournaments (New Zealand and Malaysia).
Two teams from Africa and four each from the Americas and Asia-Oceania will advance to one of four global FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments to be held in February 2020. There they will be joined by the six qualifiers from the recently completed EuroBasket tournament. The top 3 teams from each of the four tournaments will book a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Australia is one of the eight Asia-Oceania region teams that will take to the court in November. They have been pooled with 2019 FIBA Asia Cup champions Japan who are also the Olympic Host nation, Chinese Taipei and India in Group B which will be played in Malaysia. New Zealand who are also taking part will host Group A which features Asia Cup silver medalists China, along with fourth placed Korea and the Philippines.
Only the top two teams from Group A and Group B in the Asia-Oceania pre-qualifying tournaments will progress to one of the four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in February.
The November pre-qualifying window commences immediately after the conclusion of round 5 of the WNBL season, with an allowance made in the scheduling to accommodate the event. Should the Opals qualify for one of the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, the February window commences immediately after the final round of the WNBL season, with the semi-final series to tip-off once completed.
Despite entering the recent Asia Cup as 2018 FIBA World Cup silver medalists, the Opals fell to China and were then relegated to the bronze medal game by Japan. They would then go on to defeat Korea to secure third place.
As they found in Bengaluru, the road through Asia is not easy. Yet the Opals could well find that qualifying for the Olympics prove just as difficult a task.