The road to the Tokyo Olympics starts here. Beginning on September 24, Asia’s top eight basketball countries will square off against each other at the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup to take a step closer towards qualification.
Scheduled to be held at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru, India, the tournament will see the defending champions, Japan lining up against the likes of Australia, China, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Philippines and newcomers, India.
Host India is back in the top division after winning the division ‘B’ at the last edition in 2017 at the same venue, beating Kazakhstan in the final.
The eight teams have been divided into two groups of four each. champions Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and India are in Group ‘A’, while Australia, China, New Zealand and the Philippines occupy Group ‘B’.
Each team will play the other in their group once (three games each), with the table-toppers qualifying for the semi-finals. Meanwhile, the second and third-placed teams will cross swords in the quarter-finals.
Teams finishing at the bottom of their respective groups will play a classification match to retain their spot in Division A with the losing team being relegated to Division ‘B’ for the 2021 FIBA Women's Asia Cup.
The 2019 edition of the competition also carries a special significance since it will determine the eight teams that will participate in the FIBA Pre-Qualifying Olympic Tournament in November.
While the top eight teams (seven teams that retain their Division ‘A’ status and the one team promoted from Division ‘B’) post the Asia Cup will go through for the Pre-Qualifying Olympic Tournament, if Japan, the host of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games fail to make it among the top eight, the seven best along with Japan will go through to the competition scheduled in November.
The opening day will see the runners-up at the previous edition, Australia, flag off the championships with their clash against the Philippines while the hosts will square off against champions Japan in the last tie of the day.
The group stage fixtures will be played from September 24 to 26, and September 27 will mark the beginning of the quarter-finals as well as the seventh-place classification.
Those progressing from the quarters will lock horns with the top two teams in the semi-finals on November 28, while the championship decider will kick off on September 29.
Players to watch out for
Ramu Tokashiki (Japan)
Ramu Tokashiki is a two-time FIBA Asian Championships gold medallist, winning the top prize in 2013 and 2015, while also clinching a bronze in 2011. Tokashiki averaged more than 10 points in both tournaments when Japan won the gold.
Apart from performing admirably for her national side, she also has had a successful stint in the WNBA and was one of the leading performers for Seattle Storm from 2015 to 2017.
Katie-Rae Ebzery (Australia)
The veteran guard from Australia has been in brilliant form since the past couple of years, winning a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as well as a silver at the FIBA World Cup in Spain last year.
Heading into the 2019 Women’s Asia Cup, Ebzery’s experience and organised defensive work would be vital if Australia are to challenge for the title.
Han Xu (China)
She may be only 19, but Chinese youngster Han Xu has already created waves on the global stage with her deceptive movements and consistent performances. Towering above most at 6’9”, the basketballer makes the most of her lanky figure to score points with ease as well as defend opposition shots.
Park Hye-Jin (South Korea)
Park Hye-Jin has been one of the mainstays of her team in the past five years or so. She won a silver at the 2018 Asian Games and was a vital cog in the team’s defence, with the South Korean conceding in excess of 60 points just once in the group stages. Hye-Jin’s experience would be essential for her side now at the 2019 Women’s Asia Cup.
Jeena Skaria (India)
The Indian women’s basketball team would be hoping for Jeena Skaria to be in top form if they are to make an impact against Asia’s heavyweights.
The 25-year-old forward from Kerala led the junior team in 2012 at the U18 FIBA Asia Championships for Women and has been a regular feature in the senior side as well since the past few years.
Where to watch
The matches will be streamed live on FIBA’s YouTube channel.