|10 August 2014|
|Naira Caceres Martell and Spain will take on France|
After both teams fell short in the semi-finals, old rivals France and Spain have one chance left to salvage a medal from their U16 European Championship Women campaigns.
The incredible Spanish programme has grown accustomed to success at the U16 level. Eight golds and one silver in the last ten tournaments is an unmatchable record.
But this year, bronze is the best they can hope for. To go home with nothing is hard to imagine.
And yet, it's very plausible. For as strong as Spain have looked at times, they will no doubt have had their confidence dented by suffering three losses during the tournament, including two to Russia.
France, their neighbour to the north who pipped Spain to the U20 European Championship Women gold earlier this year, will be far from a walkover in this match. Indeed, with this French team, the threat always lurks that the boundless potential they exhibit could suddenly catch fire and take a game away from you.
This is undoubtedly a flawed French squad, one which has suffered frequent offensive malaises during the competition. But they managed to win a quarter-final on the road in testing conditions, and their deep roster matches up nicely with the Spanish squad.
For Spain, they need to go to the well one more time and find those reserves of energy which fuel their frenetic defence. When their intensity nears maximum levels, Spain are terrifyingly difficult to score against, as even Russia found out at times. And if they can knock France off their rhythm, Spain will be fully aware that they could run away with the match and the medal.
Key Matchups: France have a trio on the frontline who can present varying challenges to Naira Caceres, Laia Solé and company. Alexia Chartereau has established herself as France's lynchpin, and she will be eager to bounce back from a disappointing shooting display in the semi-final loss to Czech Republic. She has rejected 19 shots in eight matches, good for second in the competition, and she is complemented defensively by Gassa Djaldi-Tabdi and Ana Tadic. Tadic is lengthy and strong with Djaldi-Tabdi more athletic, and although both have struggled offensively, they might be able to cause trouble in the right matchups.
Caceres has shown a nice ability to step out and nail jumpshots as well as admirable strength inside, while Solé looks as though she can become a real beast in the post long-term. Irati Echarri completes Spain's regular frontline, although Paula Ginzo has done enough in recent matches to merit more consideration.
|Iris Junio has been great so far for Spain|
The point guard matchup could be intriguing also, with Spain's Iris Junio, Lucia Alonso and Paloma Gonzalez facing France's Romane Jeanneaux, who looks to be someone who can run the point for France for a long time to come. One of the 2000 generation, Jeanneaux's experiences at this tournament will stand her in good stead as she develops.
Alonso has been one of the best guards in the tournament, shooting well from outside as well as driving effectively and setting up teammates. Gonzalez provided great energy in Spain's frantic attempts to hold on to their title against Russia, while Junio was playing U16 two years ahead of schedule in 2013 as she experienced continental success for the first time. Junio is the team's leading scorer, and she has run the point well while defending opposing guards with more size than they're used to. As with Jeanneaux, the next few years promise to be fascinating as she develops.
Key Stats: France have had the 11th-best offence in the competition, scoring 52.9ppg, ahead of only the bottom four and Belgium. Spain's tally is a little lopsided after a couple of crushing victories, but they have averaged more than 70 points per game in total. France's problems can often be traced back to carelessness with the ball, averaging more than 22 turnovers per game.