|Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. If you would like to contact Paul you can e-mail him here firstname.lastname@example.org.|
When Israel take to the floor in Poland, they will be looking to end twenty years of hurt at EuroBasket Women.
Everyone associated with women's basketball in Israel have the date of 12 June 1991 etched on their collective minds. For that was the last time Israel won a game at the tournament and ever since they revelled in that famous night as hosts when they toppled the mighty Czechoslovakia, they have suffered a drought spanning two decades.
|Shay Doron was Israel's second scorer in the EuroBasket Women Qualifying Round with 19.5 points per game and has just had a fantastic season with Elitzur Ramla|
However, the EuroCup Women success of Elitzur Ramla earlier this year has given everyone a real lift and injected a dose of the feel-good factor back into the National Team so perhaps the momentum is with Israel to snap their Final Round losing streak.
Now entering a third decade since their last victory in the competition, Israel provide a perfect example of just how tough life can be at the elite level - despite qualifying for EuroBasket Women on a regular basis. In fact, they have only been absent once during the last five tournaments.
While on the surface it looks like a decidedly miserable and rotten run of losses, if you break down the detail it's not difficult to see how things could have been oh so different! For example, two years ago in Latvia, Israel lost every game by single digits and eventual champions France needed a buzzer-beater to snatch a win.
Having said that, not winning again just isn't an option for the current players with Liron Cohen categorically stating ahead of the tournament that the team simply must find that elusive victory. Looking on paper at the talent they have available, Cohen and backcourt partner Shay Doron will have a big say in whether they can meet that ambition.
These twin turbos are a major reason to be hopeful Israel can really come to the fore and if they don't get that precious victory then it shouldn't be due to a lack of offensive firepower.
Additionally, Israel are usually in the role of underdogs but this time around, it is probably a tag they will share with EuroBasket Women rookies Great Britain who will represent Israel's best opportunity to break the losing streak in Group B.
There is also the somewhat romantic notion of how history has a strange way of repeating itself. The message to (Czechoslovakia's succesors) the Czech Republic and Slovakia is to be on your guard!
|Sharp-shooting Liron Cohen is expected to carry the biggest weight on offence once again. The point guard averaged 20.8 points and 6.7 assists in the Qualifying Round|
Israel won't just aim for that first win in what seems like an eternity, they know it could also mean an opportunity to progress to the next round for the first time in their history.
Head Coach Eli Rabi has a relatively stable roster, good chemistry, great continuity, some really dangerous scorers who can make a big difference and if they perform somewhere near to the level they did in Latvia, a win could be within their grasp.
Last Time Out - Israel finished 13th at EuroBasket Women 2009.
Key Player - After almost ten years as a playmaker and scorer with the National Team, Liron Cohen remains desperate to add a major tournament win to her impressive resume. She is a real offensive threat but will also create freely for others. With vast experience including EuroLeague Women Final Four at club level, she is in the form of her life right now and at the peak of her powers. The MVP of the Coppa Italia earlier this year should be the catalyst for Israel once again.
Sleeper - If selected and given an opportunity, watch out for Naama Shafir, a talented 21 year old combo guard who looks set to finally try and switch her blistering form at youth level for Israel into some tangible production at senior level.
X Factor - Israel have as good a backcourt as anywhere in the competition in terms of offensive threats. However, their success or otherwise is likely to be determined by two main things, their defence and in particular whether their frontline can do a job in matching up and containing their opponents in the paint.
Did you know? - Liron Cohen was the competition leader for both points and assists per game during the Qualifying Round last summer. She averaged 20.8 points and 6.7 assists per game.In just five words - Time for that precious win.