|24 July 2014|
|Shutting down Janis Ndiba will be paramount for France |
Six days of absorbing action at the U18 European Championship Women in Matosinhos has seen the number of medal contenders scythed in half from sixteen to eight.
The quarter-finals promise yet more entertainment and as the medal-chase enters a critical phase, we look at the key factors which could determine who makes it to the last four.
France v Netherlands
Last year's finalists France have looked impenetrable defensively and even when they lost their one game, it was 47-46 to Slovenia. They don't really have any standout stars and their team approach is impressive. Netherlands have been far from consistent but have done a good job to make the last eight without star playmaker Laura Cornelius. They are dangerous in one-off games if they can make shots from outside as Janis Ndiba and Emese Hof are always a threat inside.
Records: France 5-1 (WLWWW), Netherlands 3-3 (WLLWLW)
Key Match-Up: Who France use to guard Ndiba will be pivotal. It could be Marie Milapie or Camille Cirgue, but maybe Maimouna Ba is set for extended court tie in this one due to her athleticism which could nullify Ndiba.
Key Stat: France have by far the best defensive record of any team and their miserly defence gives up only 46.8 points per game.
|Patricia Bura needs to have the game of her life for Croatia, in order to shut down Russia's inside threats |
Russia v Croatia
Croatia are still rejoicing their somewhat surprise run into the quarter-finals after having had such a torrid start to the competition. They will be huge underdogs in this one against a Russian side who only have a tight overtime loss to their name so far and possess the dominant twin towers of Zhosselina Maiga and Tatiana Sema. They will be hard to swap and with playmaker Kseniia Levchencko finding her touch after an indifferent start, many are installing Russia as a genuine gold medal contender.
Records: Russia 5-1 (LWWWW), Croatia 2-4(LLWLLW)
Key Match-Up: Patricia Bura will need to have the game of her life in a Croatian vest to blunt the power of Maiga and Sema under the basket.
Key Stat: Croatia can expect to be swatted away on a few occasions as Russia lead the tournament in blocks with an impressive five per game.
Italy v Serbia
Arguably the most attractive quarter-final tie, injury-hit Italy will be hoping they are back somewhere near full strength although they showed against Spain just how good they are by pushing the champions hard in their only defeat. Serbia have been out of sorts in the last four games and have not built on a positive start, but are more than capable of winning this one-off game as they chase down a third successive bronze medal at the event.
Records: Italy 5-1 (LWWWWL), Serbia 3-3 (WWLWLL)
Key Match-Up: While all the talk with Serbia has been around Aleksandra Crvendakic, it has been Julijana Vojinovic who has scored the most points and she could match-up with the irrepressible
|Laura Quevedo has been going about her work quietly for Spain, but could well be the key factor against Belgium|
Cecilia Zanadalisini who is the driving force for Italy in very way.
Key Stat: Serbia must look after the ball because Italian quick hands have grabbed a brilliant 14 steals per game so far and the Serbians can't afford to give up easy fast-break points.
Spain v Belgium
These are arguably the two form teams in the competition, France flying into the final eight behind five straight wins. The aforementioned battle of the back-court could go a long way to deciding which team gets into their rhythm and therefore assumes the advantage.
Records: Spain 6-0 (WWWWWW), Belgium 3-3 (WLWLLW)
Key Match-Up: Laura Quevedo has done a solid job for Spain and been brilliant on the glass and she needs to be taken care of - a task likely to fall upon Laeticia Mpoyi.
Key Stat: It may come as a surprise that Spain are the best rebounders in the competition as they don't have any dominant frontcourt players. But as a team they are excellent and have racked up a remarkable 100 offensive boards, which means Belgium must box-out like their lives depend on it!