AfroBasket Women Championship tips off today in Yaounde, Cameroon with Nigeria’s women national basketball team, D’Tigress among the 12 national teams vying for honours.
D’Tigress will open their campaign against Guinea today by 1.30pm before tackling Angola tomorrow at 7.30pm. The competition will last till October 3.
The teams not only will compete to be crowned continental champions, but also to clinch the only direct qualifying berth on offer for African teams for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Group A teams are Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa, Mali, Cameroon and Gabon.
Here is a look at Group B.
Two former African Champions Nigeria and Senegal join the current two-time reigning champions Angola in the ‘Group of Death’.
Then there is Egypt, Algeria and Guinea who come next to compete for the fourth spot to advance to the Quarter-Finals.
SENEGAL – (13 wins-3 losses in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking – 3rd in Africa; 24th in the World
A first glance at the group’s front-runners, and Senegal emerge as the strongest contenders not only because they line up a number of the veterans such as Astou Traore, Aya Traore and Mame Marie Sy, but also because they have Moustapha Gaye at the helm.
The head coach, who returns to the team for the first time since 2011, has played a key part in Senegal’s continental success in recent years.
Although Senegal fell short to Angola in the Semi-Finals a couple of years ago in Maputo, this time around the roster combines experience, athleticism and talent.
Senegal last competed in the Olympics 15 years ago in Sydney, where they lost all their five games, but the dream of making it to the 2016 Rio games remains very much alive.
Senegal will open their AfroBasket Women 2015 campaign facing old rivals Angola, a team they have struggled to beat in recent times.
Last week, at the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, the Senegalese defeated the Angolans 63-52 in the Preliminary-Round, but were unable to replicate that winning effort in the Third-Place Game which they lost 53-42.
ANGOLA – (15 wins-1 loss in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking – 1st in Africa; 18th in the World
The Angolans – winners of the last two editions of the tournament – head to Yaounde aiming to become the first team to win three consecutive AfroBasket Women tournaments. But they know that going all the way to the Final will require a lot more than just their ambition.
Displaying worrying inconsistency the way they did in Brazzaville raises doubts about their ability to win the trophy and return to the Olympics having competed in London in 2012.
In the Semi-Final of the All-African Games against Nigeria, Jaime Covilha’s team led by as many as 10 points midway through the final quarter but ended up losing 61-59.
Ngiendula Filipe, one of the veterans in the Angolan roster, had a chance to tie the contest from the free-throw line with three seconds remaining, but missed both attempts from the charity stripe.
However, if US-born Italee Lucas, who has been living and playing in Angola for the past four years and acquired Angolan citizenship a few months ago, is cleared to play in Yaounde 2015, then the Angolans will see their playmaking position strengthened.
Angola currently hold a 14-game winning streak at AfroBasket Women, and will need the team’s key players – Nacissela Mauricio, Nadir Manuel and Fineza Eusebio – playing at their very best.
NIGERIA – (7 wins-9 losses in the last two AfroBasket Women)
FIBA Ranking – 5th in Africa; 46th in the World.
Although Nigeria – who last won the continental title a decade ago – appear to be ready to compete, they seem to be lacking physicality as well as talent to battle near the basket.
Nigeria lost to Mali in the Final of the All-Africa Games last week, but beating Angola in the Semi-Finals in Brazzaville seems more encouraging than ever.
Both playmakers Sarah Ogoke and Adaora Elonu rule the team’s offense and should remain as relevant when they enter the tournament aiming at securing the only direct qualifying spot on offer for African teams for next year’s Olympics.
Nigeria will open their campaign facing Guinea, a team making its return to the tournament for the first time since 2011.
It remains to be seen how competitive Guinea can become, especially after conceding heavy defeats against Mali in the Zone 2 qualifier this past June.
As for the two North African teams, Algeria and Egypt, reaching the Quarter-Finals remains their common goal.
Egypt were awarded a wild card to participate in the tournament, while Algeria saw off Morocco in the Africa Zone 1 qualifiers.
Algeria head coach Azzedine Labouize suggested they are going to need to beat Egypt and Guinea to dream big.
The teams not only will compete to be crowned continental champions, but also to clinch the only direct qualifying berth on offer for African teams for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The young Nigerian ladies won silver at the FIBA U16 Championship for Women where they lost to Mali earlier in the year and also won silver at the All-African Games.
Semifinals will be played on Friday Oct 2nd while the 3rd place and final game will be played on Saturday October 3rd.
The top four teams from each group will advance to the Quarter Final of the competition which is scheduled for Oct 1.

READ ALSO  Ozil to sign new Arsenal deal

The Fixtures
Thursday 24th Sept Nigeria vs Guinea (1.30pm)
Friday 25th Sept – Angola vs Nigeria (7.30pm)
Tuesday 29th Sept – Algeria vs Nigeria (1.30pm)
Saturday 26th Sept – Nigeria vs Egypt (11.30am)
Monday 28th Sept -Nigeria vs Senegal (7.30pm)

READ ALSO  Djokovic beat Federer to reach sixth final