Already qualified Belgian Cats conclude the Olympic qualifying tournament in style with a big victory against Olympic competitor Nigeria

© BELGIUM

After qualifying against Senegal on Friday, the Belgian Cats also won their third and final match against Nigeria on Sunday afternoon in Antwerp. The score was 78-61. The Belgian basketball women were a class better than number eleven in the world rankings and can go to Paris with confidence in six months.

Belgium – Nigeria was the last but actually unnecessary match of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Antwerp. The European and African champions had both already qualified for the Olympic Games on Friday evening at the expense of Senegal. The two countries can also meet each other in Paris, so the final match was, in addition to a gala match in front of an almost sold-out Sports Palace (11,645 spectators), also a nice test for a possible Olympic meeting in six months’ time. Laure Résimont missed the game with a swollen ankle.

Just like against the US and Senegal, the Belgian Cats started the match with a flying start. With their characteristic energetic style and lightning-fast passing game, the physically imposing but sluggish Nigeria was initially outplayed. Just like against the US, the Cats’ danger came from all sides. Vanloo, Delaere, Mununga and Allemand were soon on the scoreboard. And of course also the inevitable Emma Meesseman, who also unselfishly provided assists and again accounted for the majority of the rebounds. After the first quarter, the Cats already led 22-11.

© BELGIUM

It all went a little too smoothly for the Cats, where all players got a lot of playing minutes. In the second quarter, nonchalance crept into the team. Much to the annoyance of national coach Rachid Méziane, who sternly lectured his players during a time-out. That helped. At halftime, the eleven-point gap from the first quarter was maintained: 40-29.

The same match scenario just after half-time. The Cats took their foot off the accelerator for a moment and saw Nigeria approach three points in no time. Let it be a warning to Paris: 95% will not succeed. Fortunately, the Belgian women have grown so much that a small intermediate gear was enough for them to finally eliminate even the African champion. Just six minutes later the Cats had another reassuring 20-point bonus. At the start of the last quarter, the 63-42 lead was enough to enter the end of the match without stress. Nigeria no longer pressed and national coach Méziane also gave his bench many extra minutes to gain experience. Emma Meesseman and Antonia Delaere – very strong and top scorer with 15 points – received applause replacement well before the whistle.

© BELGIUM

After a small closing party with the fans, the Belgian Cats can look forward to March 19 in anticipation. They will then enter the trophy for the Olympic draw with eleven other countries (see below). This will determine how difficult the road is to the clearly stated ambitions: the semi-finals and two chances for Olympic medals.

These countries have already qualified for Paris 2024

– United States

– France

– Belgium

– Nigeria

– China

– Puerto Rico

– Australia

– Japan

– Spain

* Two more tickets to be distributed between Germany, Serbia and Brazil

* One more ticket to be divided between Hungary and Canada.

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