PREVIEWEight teams enter the last phase of the 2010 U16 European Championship Women in Ptolemaida and Kozani with glowing hearts and hopes to earn a medal but only one of them will make it all the way to gold. The journey to the gold medal starts with the Quarter-Finals today.
Russia vs. Netherlands
The Russian team is highly favoured in their Quarter-Final match-up with the Netherlands. The Dutch are one of the biggest surprise packages of the Championship. Against Russia they will have to pull off yet another huge surprise.
The Russians have rolled through the tournament so far, suffering a single defat at the hands of Croatia. In their other five games they crushed all opposition. The key facts to Russia's performance: They run the best offense (average 77.8 points), dish out the most assists (14.5 per game) and rely on a very balanced scoring distributed among all 12 players. Also, Russia did play good defense, only allowing 55.5 points per game.
|Céline Pfister and France have a tough assignment against Spain|
In Kourtney Treffers the Netherlands have the tournament's leading scorer. Treffers is averaging 21.0 points. She almost guarantees a double double in each single game as she also averages 10.5 rebounds. Against Russia she has to have another huge game in order to lead her team within reach of a surprise. Rebounding will be a key factor for the whole Dutch squad.
Croatia vs. Belgium
A very interesting Quarter-Final match-up is the contest between Croatia and Belgium. Back in the Division A after some years, Croatia have been playing extremely well iso far. They even beat Russia which proves the team of Head Coach Zeljko Ciglar is capable of big things in Ptolemaida and Kozani.
The Croatians like to score and play a fast paced game. They do it with a great efficiency. Their field goal and three point shooting percentages are the best in the whole competition.
Belgium, last year's runner-up, will have their hands full with the high octane offense of their Quarter-Final rivals. The Belgians allowed the opposing teams a field goals percentage of 35.6 percent so far, which ranks them fourth from the bottom is this category. So stepping it up on defense will be the key for Head Coach Daniel Goethals and his team. On the other side their offense is the reason why they can head confident into their Quarter-Final. With Antonia Delaere, Heleen Adams and Hind Ben Abdelkader they have a prolific scoring trio. Together they average 35.2 points per game which is more than the half of the total points Belgium collected.
The offense skills of both teams promise a very entertaining "all or nothing" game.
Turkey vs. Serbia
Turkey have admitted before that they are dreaming of a medal at the U16 European Championship Women and their performances so far gives them every reason to do so. In a match-up against the fourth seed from Group E, Serbia, they look set to continue their impressive run.
Since they went down in their opener against Poland, they have remained undefeated. Five straight wins bolstered the confidence of the Turkish while good defense and an uptempo game are the trademarks of Head Coach Erkan Metin's team. Their offense was often fuelled by good defense. The Turkish average 12.5 steals.
To take good care of the ball is one main thing Serbia have to do against Turkey. The Serbs qualified for the Quarter-Finals with a big win over Sweden. In Natasa Kovacevic they have one the best players in the tournament. Kovacevic is leading Serbia in points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots while overall Serbia has the second best field goal percentage (39.7) and is the team with the second most steals per game (14.3). Thus Turkey will have to take care of the ball also.
Spain vs. France
It will sure feel more than a Quarter-Final when Spain and France meet at the U16 European Championship Women 2010. Spain did not have a good Preliminary Round but remained unbeaten in the Qualifying Round but against the French they will have to move to an extra gear. Marlés Balart has played a huge tournament until now, averaging 11.8 points and 13.7 rebounds (ranked first in the competition) per game. Against France's tall line-up, her rebounding skills will again be important.
France have played a perfect first five games and seemingly easy qualified for the Quarter-Finals. In their last match against Russia they had to accept defeat for the first time however. Despite the clear loss (54-70), France is still one of the favourites to win here. Point guard Olivia Epoupa has provided the team with a huge lift marking 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Spain versus France promises to be one of the most intriguing games in this competition.