|14 June 2013|
EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
by Joe Hewison
|Not afraid: Latvia's Elina Babkina|
Latvia will be out to cause one of the biggest shocks in EuroBasket Women history when they open their 2013 campaign against France.
The hosts and silver medalists from last year's London 2012 Olympic Games are heavy favourites to repeat their success of 2009 and lift the trophy in front of their home fans.
France come into the tournament good form too having won all of their nine preparation games.
But this doesn't discourage Latvia guard Elina Babkina, who will shoulder the majority of the scoring responsibility following a number of withdrawals due to injury.
Babkina said: "We have nothing to worry about because we have nothing to lose.
"We came here just to fight and to show who we are. It doesn't matter who is against us, we respect all our opponents even if they maybe don't respect us because we are missing some players.
"We didn't come here just to give up because it's France. So be careful."
Babkina will also have her hands full on the defensive end of the floor as she attempts to slow down reigning FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year, Celine Dumerc.
Dumerc will be the centre of attention as she is presented with that trophy prior to tip-off but she is far from being France's only star, with the likes of Sandrine Gruda, Emilie Gomis and Isabelle Yacoubou providing a stellar supporting cast.
Before that however, Great Britain and Serbia will give Arena Loire its first taste of EuroBasket Women action in the earlier game from Group C.
Great Britain come into the game boosted by the news that their talismanic leader Johannah Leedham will be in France to drive them forward after she was waived by WNBA side the Connecticut Sun.
|Milica Dabovic and four of her Partizan teammates bring their chemistry to the Serbia roster|
New head coach Damian Jennings is also taking confidence from the fact that his team know all they need to about their Group C opponents.
He said: "The beauty of it is now that we've played all these teams in other competition or other games. We've played France. We've played Latvia. And we've either beaten them or challenged them."
Serbia will not be short on positive energy themselves however. Marina Maljkovic's team qualified for the tournament in impressive fashion, winning six of their eight qualifying games.
Serbia are due a good tournament performance too. They have not made the quarter-finals of a major competition since reaching the last eight of EuroBasket Women 2003.
But rather than relying on any individuals, perhaps Serbia's biggest strength will be their unity and understanding. Maljkovic and no fewer than five of her players all come from the same club side, Partizan Belgrade, and in tournament play this is something that could prove a valuable asset.