Olympic champions the USA will compete in the Women’s World Cup on Thursday with a revamped squad missing some of their biggest stars. However, the basketball juggernaut is a strong favorite to win the competition for the fourth time in a row. They will play without Sue Bird and Brittney Griner.
Griner, a star player on her Olympic-winning squad in Tokyo, is still imprisoned in Russia. On other hand, Bird and her longtime partner Diana Taurasi have given up the game. The 12-team competition in Sydney will feature Tokyo Olympians Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Kahleah Copper, and Ariel Atkins among others.
“It just goes to show that women’s basketball is in good hands”. said Indiana Fever’s NaLyssa Smith, another of the younger generation. “The future is strong for us. We will learn.”
“We’re certainly younger, but the way we want to play, we want to elevate the tempo and respect the coach and USA Basketball by playing the game well,” the shooting guard for the Washington Mystics stated.
Group Stage: A Walk in the Park for the Team USA
In the group round, the USA are paired with Belgium and China. They have avoided the third-ranked and host nation Australia. The USA have a 22-game winning streak in the competition currently.
Last year, the Americans defeated Japan with ease to win their eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal. This year, they will also face Jonquel Jones’ Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, a South Korean team missing top player Park Ji-su, and underdogs from Puerto Rico.
Australia, who was defeated in the 2018 World Cup final, is one of just two nations to have won the tournament. They, along with the United States, will have a considerably tougher struggle in Group B.
They were paired with the Asian champions Japan, the bronze medalists from the Tokyo Olympics, Canada in sixth place, Serbia, and Mali. Spain, ranked second in the world, was eliminated. Russia, on the other hand, was disqualified from the tournament after invading Ukraine.
Prior to the 10-day competition’s conclusion on October 1 and the winner’s selection to the Paris 2024 Olympics, the top four teams in each group advance to the Quarterfinals.
Griner’s was detained at a Moscow airport in February for having vape cartridges containing a trace amount of cannabis oil. This casts a shadow over the competition as the Americans take the field against Belgium. The 31-year-old was accused of drug smuggling and given a nine-year prison term. She also played for Yekaterinburg’s professional squad during the Phoenix Mercury’s Russian offseason.