EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Ana Dabovic celebrates Wednesday night's historic victory|
By Paul Nilsen
A poster girl for the women's game, the enchanting appeal of Ana Dabovic can sometimes mask the fact she can be as hard as nails when needed.
For behind an endlessly captivating gaze and smile, lies a seriously tough performer.
Indeed one who played through the pain barrier of a troublesome knee injury, just to ensure a considerable slice of Serbian basketball history was deliciously served up in Orchies.
Serbia squeezed out Italy in a fantastic advert for women's basketball, to reach the semi-finals of EuroBasket Women for the first time, whilst simultaneously stamping a pass to the FIBA World Championship for Women next year - another historic first.
Still jumping for joy, albeit just about on one leg in the immediate aftermath of a stunning night for Serbia, Dabovic revealed her granite-like inner core - something which the multiple camera lens that trail her relentlessly throughout the game don't always convey.
"I believed I could get through the game with my knee and I prayed I could deal with some pain and help the team in this one game," explained Dabovic.
"I told myself that after this moment, I really don't care.
"I expect there will be some problems with my knee in the next few days, but there are no problems in my head, believe me!"
She continued, "That is what I had to do to help the team. I wanted this so badly and I am like everyone else in the Serbian team, I just want to fight to win.
"It means so much to all of our people and for women's basketball in Serbia that we can give them this moment and this history."
|Ana Dabovic (centre) has played through a lot of pain, following a knee injury picked up in the second round|
The attitude and tenacious approach of Dabovic is commonplace within the Serbian team. They racked up a staggering fifth straight win by edging out Italy, managing to hang tough and finally finding their strengths during the closing stages.
"It was a very difficult game," agreed Dabovic.
"That was because we started really weak and they put a lot of pressure on us.
"But, we had an important talk at half-time in the locker room and we came out really focused.
"We always believed we would win the game and it was our belief that made it possible.
"I am so proud that we didn't fall mentally in the game because even when we were losing, we stayed together and stayed very strong.
"That is why we have now won five straight games - because it is all about our teams' mental strength.
"We are tough and we knew how important this step would be for everyone who wants to take Serbian women's basketball to new places.
"I want us to show everybody we are a great team and we can do a lot."
Dabovic and Serbia will now look to continue their fairytale run when they play Spain in the semi-finals and will get two bites at trying to write another page of history by collecting a coveted medal.