Basketball: Spain dash British hopes and secure Olympic women’s berth

(Reuters) – European champions Spain secured their slot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic women’s basketball tournament on Sunday and dashed British hopes of a breakthrough qualification.

Australia, Serbia, Belgium, South Korea and Puerto Rico joined the Spaniards in punching their tickets for Tokyo and completing the 12-strong lineup.

Hosts Japan and Olympic and world champions the United States were already sure of places while China, Canada, France and Nigeria made sure of their places on Saturday.

Spain beat Britain, coached by Spaniard Chema Buceta and hoping to qualify for Games on merit for the first time, 79-69 in a must-win qualifying Group B game in Belgrade.

The Group B qualifiers were originally scheduled for Foshun in China but moved to Serbia due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Britain’s only previous Olympic basketball appearances were in Games the country hosted but hopes had been raised after the women finished fourth in last year’s eurobasket tournament.

“Some people look at us and don’t think we should be here but we are here and we made a statement for GB basketball,” said forward Chantelle Handy.

“The funding was not there but it did not matter. We have passion, we are like a family. We did not win but we fought to the very end.”

Serbia made sure of their slot in Belgrade by beating Mozambique 76-48 in a group A that included Nigeria and the Americans.

In Bourges, Australia beat Brazil 86-72, with the winless South Americans missing out while Puerto Rico secured their Olympic place alongside France who booked their ticket on Saturday.

In Ostend, group hosts Belgium beat Sweden 61-53 to qualify for the first time, with Emma Meesseman racking up 24 points. They join Canada, who made sure of their slot a day earlier, from a group that included Japan.

Teams qualified for the Olympic women’s tournament: Japan, United States, China, Spain, South Korea, Nigeria, Serbia, Canada, Belgium, France, Australia and Puerto Rico.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge

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