Australia v Japan FIBA Women’s basketball World Cup: What Opals need to avoid USA, China

The Australians require the Serbians to defeat the French to lock in a top two finish should they also beat Japan on Tuesday night from 8.30pm (AEST).

FOLLOW FOR LIVE UPDATES FROM THE OPALS’ CLASH WITH JAPAN BELOW

If Serbia fails to beat France, it puts the Opals in the likely position to finish third in Group B and face powerhouses the USA or China in the quarters.

The draw for the Women’s Basketball World Cup quarter-finals will take place after the conclusion of the Group Phase on Tuesday night.

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Shortly after the last game of the first stage is complete, at 11:30pm local time, the Sydney Superdome will host the draw for the quarter-finals, which will take place on Thursday September 29.

We need more: Opals star challenged to back it up

Opals coach Sandy Brondello has challenged star centre Ezi Magbegor to back up her breakout World Cup performance against Canada with another dominant display versus Japan on Tuesday night.

Brondello’s clear message comes after Magbegor dropped a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and five decisive blocks in a thrilling three-point victory over the Canadians.

It was one of the centre’s best games in the green and gold to have the bumper crowd at the Sydney Superdome on its feet.

The Opals need Magbegor to consistently produce at a high level to have any chance of progressing deep into the World Cup.

Brondello was rapt with Magbegor’s magnificent effort against Canada, but she wants more from her WNBA gun.

“I don’t think Ezi has found her best form, but that was close to it against Canada,” Brondello said.

“We are going to need (more of it) moving forward.

“Ezi is at her best when she is playing great defence. She is changing people’s shots when they come into the paint.

“But also getting out and running and putting her in situations where she can get to the rim, and we needed that.”

Magbegor is normally a starter for the Opals, but she has been relegated to the bench in the past two games.

Fellow big Marianna Tolo replaced her in the starting five in wins over Serbia and Canada.

Magbegor, though, is happy to put the team first.

“We need that spark off the bench,” Magbegor said.

“We’ve had such a slow start to the tournament and Tolo has started well and carried that form on.

“So, coming off the bench I knew I just had to continue what the starters had started.

“I’m just proud of the team for sticking it in for the full four quarters against Canada and just getting the job done.”

It looks unlikely that anyone will stop Team USA from winning a fourth straight World Cup crown, but Magbegor is still dreaming big for the Opals.

“We believe we can go all the way,” she said.

“That was my mindset coming into this tournament.

“It isn’t going to be easy, and we have to take it one game at a time.”

Originally published as Australia v Japan FIBA Women’s basketball World Cup: Follow the latest news, analysis and fallout

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