|11 June 2013|
EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Antonija Misura needs to step up in the absence of Sandra Mandir|
Each weekday in the lead up to EuroBasket Women, fibaeurope.com profiles the sixteen teams who will be appearing in France. This time, it's Group D challengers, Croatia.
Road to EuroBasket Women 2013: Croatia qualified after finishing in fifth place at EuroBasket Women 2011 and proceeded to make a historic first ever appearance at the Olympic Games last summer.
Team History: This will be the fifth Final Round appearance for Croatia as they look to build on their achievement two years ago which was their best ever placing. They have only failed to reach the quarter-final stage on one occasion.
Keep an Eye On: The strength of Croatia could be their frontcourt, since they have a couple of terrific do-it-all forwards in Ana Lelas and Jelena Ivezic. Both are driving forces who bring so much to the team, both on and off the floor. Lelas received French citizenship this year and so it will be a special tournament for her and she is likely to be the one taking the fight to opponents. She is aggressive, feisty and never far from the action - the type of player for whom having a quiet game is almost impossible. Even if not producing offensively and having a below-par shooting night, Lelas will be hustling and playing defence. Ivezic is similarly influential in the paint and coming in from the wings. Both will spearhead Croatia and are fearsome competitors who carry the flag with pride and epitomise everything you need to know about the team.
X Factors: Croatia won't back down from anybody. As evidenced in Poland, they are a well-drilled team with great spirit and can be dangerous even when they are on the ropes. They have no huge stars, just an array of very good players who play well together. Their frontcourt looks solid, the twin turbo power of Lelas and Ivezic supplemented by the size and strength of Luca Ivankovic, the determination and skills of Iva Sliskovic and the mobility of pick and roll exponent, Marija Rezan. It is in the backcourt where the question marks and ‘X-Factors' will have a bearing. Much will depend upon Iva Ciglar and Andja Jelavic at point guard, whilst Antonija Misura must take her chance and step into the shoes of retired star Sandra Mandir. Production from the backcourt is essential and especially if their opponents either zone Croatia or simply clog up the lanes and try to take away penetration. Who is going to be a zone-buster and find the hot-hand?
In Summary: One of the major stories of EuroBasket Women 2011, was the impressive fifth placed finish for injury-ravaged Croatia, who used their performance as a springboard to achieve their aim of treading the hardwood at the Olympics for the first time in their history. Now head coach Stipe Bralic must deal with potential new expectation, although this may have to be re-aligned due to the retirement of kingpin and 2011 All Tournament Team member, Sandra Mandir. Then again, Croatia have shown that missing key personnel is no barrier to success. Trying to assess their prospect of success is arguably more difficult than with any other nation. You could even say they truly have unfathomable expectations.