|Spain depend on their top scorer Angela Salvadores to deliver a top performance in order to win against undefeated Russia.|
By Luis Cristovao
The first U16 European Championship Women Semi-Final features, face to face, the defending champions, Spain, versus the only undefeated team in the tournament, Russia.
Russia present high quality players, both in the backcourt and frontcourt.
Looking at the roster, they are the tallest team in the tournament, having in Zhosselina Maiga, Tatiana Sema and Ksenia Kuzmina three powerful centers towering under the basket.
Maiga leads the team in rebounds, with an average of 6.7, and is very mobile, while Kuzmina is very effective on second chance points.
Sema, a 1.93 m center, is playing on the forward position most of the time and it will be very hard to find a player to pair with her defensively.
For the frontcourt battle, the Spanish will need Nogaye Lo Sylla to repeat her fantastic Quarter-Final performance.
Spain will also need more help from Helena Orts, who is their best rebounder, but is not as aggressive defensively.
Isatso Conde is still injured and will most probably skip this game, as she will be missed.
Spain head coach Evaristo Perez stated, after the Quarter-Final against Hungary, that his team was "gathering confidence, every day, building an identity."
The Spanish identity is all about defensive attitude.
Laia Flores and Elena Capella are two strong guards that put all their energies in stopping the opponent's backcourt.
Ksenia Levchenko and Olga Orlova will need to surpass the first Spanish barrier to feed their teammates, a factor that might be decisive in the game.
But Perez considers that it will be "essential to have a new defensive solution to face the Russian team."
The Russian firepower is huge, as Daria Kolosovskaya, Elizaveta Bratchikova and Svetlana Boykova are all great scorers.
Spain will need Laura Quevedo and Carla Romeu to be in perfect defensive form, and top scorer Angela Salvadores playing on her highest level.
In the Quarter-Final, she made only one field goal out of 14 attempts, missing all six three-point attempts.
Spain depends on her on offence and this might be the big question for the Semi-Final: Will Salvadores live up to the leading task?
A thriller is expected in the Generali Arena.