Watch the second Semi-Final of the U16 European Championship Women LIVE on FIBA Europe TV
Saturday at 18:15 CET
|Italy will have a hard time defending Belgium's Kyara Linskens, one of the best centers in the tournament with an average of 9.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. |
By Luis Cristovao
Italy and Belgium meet again, in a remake of last year's U16 European Championship Women Semi-Final.
Two compact teams that, as Italy head coach Roberto Riccardi puts it, will play "a very tactical game."
Comparing to last season, Belgium does not have a star player, like 2011 MVP Hind Ben Abdelkader, but presents Kyara Linskens, the best rebounder in the tournament, with a 9.6 average.
Italy does not have a real center in their roster and will struggle to stop Linskens' moves under the basket. The expected is to see Cecilia Zandalasini assuring the job.
Zandalasini is a big part of the Italian success in this tournament. She leads her team in points, rebounds and assists.
She has a strong body and is also decisive for the Italian mental balance. In the crucial moments of the game, she is their go-to player.
Belgium will need to find one player to stop Zandalasini defensively. Phebe Raman seems to be a good choice, with Laeticia Mpoyi helping out every time Zandalasini penetrates in the paint.
In the backcourt, Belgium presents more options than Italy, with Julie Allemand and Eva Devliegher both able to organize the game and to score.
They are physically stronger than Sofia Vespignani and Isabel Romano, the Italian duo.
Italy's Martina Kacerik might play a surprise role, being taller and able to disturb the Belgian outside shooting.
One thing is for sure, after missing all the team's attempts from the three-point line in the Quarter-Final against the Slovak Republic, Italy will need to improve their shooting from outside.
Belgium head coach Arvid Diels wants to win a title, hoping for a third final in four years.
"My team has no stars, we have a strong team spirit and we feel prepared defensively to every challenge," he states, adding that his players "have some minor injuries but, with some more hours to recover than the Italians, we'll be ready."
Roberto Riccardi believes "Italy is now stronger than last year, and I really hope we can win."
He will have the opportunity to change the game from the bench, as he has in the team the most valuable sixth player in the tournament, Marzia Tagliamento, averaging 8.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Francesca Russo, who averages 5.3 points in 11.6 minutes.
The winner will try to rewrite history, as the two teams have, together, won seven silver medals in the history of the U16 European Championship Women, but none of them has ever won the title.