U16 WOMEN SEMI-FINALS
Four will become just two on Saturday as the U16 European Championship for Women reaches its semi-final stage in Cagliari.
And while Italy can expect noisy support when they meet Belgium, the most daunting challenge of all awaits Turkey who must find a way to counter the multiple threats of Spain if they are to produce a huge upset.
|Belgium face a tough task against the home team|
Turkish coach Erkan Metin knows the Spanish well from recent memory. In the second round of the competition, his team sustained one of their only two losses to date. It wasn't even close - a 83-35 rout. Metin hopes that the same gritty style which took the Turks past Sweden on Friday can work its magic.
"It's all about defence, defence, defence," he said. "Two years ago, in Naples, we came fifth but now we're in a semi-final."
Spain took gold then. They might again. However coach Evaristo Perez has urged his side to forget about their last meeting with Turkey and focus only on this. "It was an easy win," he concedes. "But this game will not be the same."
In 2009, Belgium were the runners-up but they came so close, an overtime loss to the Spaniards offering a hint of their growing power. Now they are close to another shot at glory but first they must get past the hosts.
"I want my players to forget about the possibility of the final, and what is going on around them with the crowd, and focus only on this game," said Belgium coach Arvid Diels.
His side has an avowed admirer. "I have seen the way that Belgian women's basketball has developed over the past ten years," declared Italy coach Renato Nani. "We saw them this year at the U18 European Championships and I've also seen some of the younger players in their senior national team.
"They have done it the correct way. And I hope that, one day, Italy's young players will get the same opportunities."
If they can repeat their brave quarter-final performance against Russia, their time might come sooner rather than later. Belgium may be favourites with their speed in transition likely to test Italy to the limit. But the presence of the Sardinian supporters can have a positive effect, Nani added.
"They have been behind us and that's important for the young players. When they hear: ‘Italia, Italia,' it is an extra motivation for them to play hard for 40 minutes.
"I saw Belgium play against the Czech Republic and Russia and I know how good they are. And we will need to play hard for the whole game."