|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 it comes to Germany and EuroBasket Women, the message remains crystal clear. Continue to expect the unexpected.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Germany during recent times has continued a long standing tradition of lurching from one extreme to another when competing in the tournament with the full spectrum of contrasting fortunes and emotions having been experienced over the last 12 months or so.
Last summer, they finished bottom of Group D in the Qualifying Round after only managing to secure a paltry two wins from their six games. Not surprisingly, by the time last September had arrived, any notion of a place in Poland looked a long-shot to say the least.
|Paul reckons Anne Breitreiner is a key player for Germany and a lot will depend on her producing consistently big performances|
Of course they did have the lifeline of the Additional Qualifying Tournament to fall back on but even then, few people gave them a prayer of progressing. The likes of Hungary, Serbia and Italy were all deemed to be more likely to secure the last remaining spot.
Having beaten Belgium in the opener, they lost to Romania and consequently remained well and truly off the radar until 24 hours later when they exploded and sent shockwaves through the tournament with a sensational performance against favourites Italy. They subsequently followed that up with another fine win against Serbia and then two terrific victories against Hungary in the play-off finals.
So there you have it, the inconsistency of the current team perfectly encapsulating the women's basketball history of an entire nation which has endured worryingly lengthy spells in the wilderness to the extreme of winning a bronze against all expectations during the nineties.
While nobody in Germany could ever expect the team to replicate the medal success of 1997 when they took to the podium thanks mainly to the contribution of the legendary Marlies Askamp, this team will be doing their nation proud by walking out in Katowice.
At so many points during the past year, getting so close and indeed making it to EuroBasket Women 2011 had looked entirely unlikely. In particular at the really bad moments when the players must have felt lower than a snakes' stomach with their dreams hanging by the faintest of threads.
However this team have really picked themselves up off the canvas, gelled and found great chemistry despite having limited talent compared to many of their rivals and being without the likes of the experienced Linda Frohlich.
They have built-up some real momentum heading into this tournament and you could say that before a ball has even been bounced, they are the form team so I am sure Poland, Montenegro and even Spain will be on their guard.
Still on the topic of momentum, their latest qualification for a major tournament (albeit far from straightforward) means they have now qualified for three of the last four EuroBasket Women tournaments which is no mean feat taking into account their rather patchy history in the competition.
Last Time Out: Germany did not qualify for the Final Round of EuroBasket Women 2011.
Key Player: Anne Breitreiner oozes quality and her resume backs up that statement in no uncertain terms having won titles and competed for trophies pretty much everywhere she has played. She has won silverware in France, Germany Poland and Spain while at National Team level, she is currently the marquee player for Germany. She is capable of some extraordinary performances, perhaps best summed up by her magnificent 31 point haul in 29 minutes during the crunch game with Italy at the Additional Qualifying Tournament. She poses a clear and present danger both inside and out for opposing defences whenever she is on the floor. Meanwhile fouling her is a non-starter since she is a phenomenal free-throw shooter. She will also do a good job on the boards and can handle the ball too if required.
Sleeper: Very much an all-action player, 21-year-old Svenja Greunke is an active forward who always seems to be in the thick of things when she's on court. A stand-out player for Germany at youth level, she was particularly excellent two summers ago in Gdynia when she recorded over 14, points and 6 rebounds per game at the U20 European Championship Women. She will no doubt be hoping to do herself back on Polish soil and if she continues to play like she did during the Addiitonal Qualifying Round,she could be on of the revelations of the tournament.
X Factor: Germany have some excellent core players such as the likes of Breitreiner and Romy Bar but they will both need to be on top form to make any kind of a splash. Most critically of all, their lack of depth is a real issue and the big question remains - can the rest of the players keep coming up with the kind of super cameo performances showcased during the last week or two?
Did You Know? - Germany have been through some real barren spells in the past, including a 12 year absence from EuroBasket Women between 1983 and 1995.
In Just Five Words: Everything is now a bonus!