Malaysia (21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for
Women): Fantastic four. Familiar Four. Fearsome foursome. Call them by any
sobriquets. East Asian teams – China, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea – have
extended their stranglehold on the top four finishes in FIBA Asia competitions
for women to almost three decades now by proving that they are the four best
teams in terms of talent, training and most importantly temperament. This is the
reality from Johor Bahru!
time any team outside of these four finished with a medal at the FIBA Asia U18
Championship for Women was at least 10 years before any of the current players
were born – in the 1984 edition at Seoul (Korea), when Malaysia managed to win a
bronze – and the hegemony will continue for another two years at
these four teams have actually made it to this stage – where all the teams claim
they expected to be – the reality and challenge of the medal finishes beckons
simple terms, with one win from this stage – either in the semifinals itself on
Friday or in the bronze medal play-off on Saturday – there are two incentives
for achieving the same result. Firstly, the winners of at least one game at this
stage are assured of a podium finish in the FIBA Asia pecking order. And
secondly, the medalists here will earn the right to represent FIBA Asia at the
2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women to be held in Lithuania next
to the top four has not been a canter for these teams, for at least two of them
were seriously challenged by the unfancied SEABA team Thailand before achieving
the desired win.
inter-East Asian battles have always thrown up a veritable slew of interesting
example China, the 12-time and reigning gold medalists, needed final minute
pushes to beat Korea and Japan.
who are aiming for a fourth successive gold medal game, needed similar efforts
to keep Korea and Taipei at bay.
nine-time former gold medalists Korea, of course, are left ruing the chances
that went abegging against all three fellow East Asian teams, and are baying for
revenge against one of them at least to prove that the No 4 finish in Level I
rankings are far from their real standard.
does that leave us expecting over the next two days? The result of the games for
the next two days will depend on one of the oldest beliefs in sport – the better
team on the particular day will win the game!
Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photos & Collage: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia