BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese national women's basketball team, which finished fifth at Tokyo 2020, departed for Amman, Jordan on Thursday for the FIBA Asia Women's Cup Division A competition slated for Sept. 27-Oct. 3.
It will be the Chinese team's first international competition since the Tokyo Olympic Games.
China lost their momentum in the final quarter against European champions Serbia in the Tokyo Olympic quarterfinals. After returning home and going through quarantine, the Chinese national players turned to the 14th National Games. They claimed the title through five lop-sided victories bearing the name of "United Team."
"We didn't have much time for rest after the Olympic Games in the lead-up to this National Games and the FIBA Women's Asia Cup," said Zheng Wei, the team's assistant coach and acting head coach at the National Games. "We just competed with ourselves at the National Games with an aim to improve our offense and defense. I'm proud of my players."
China changed two of their 12 players fielded to the Asia Cup, with the younger duo of Yang Hengyu and Li Yifan replacing Sun Mengran and Shao Ting, citing age and injury issues.
For head coach Xu Limin, the Asia Cup serves as a platform for testing young players in the new Olympic cycle.
"We aim to offer young players more chances of playing in continental tournaments," said Xu, who had brought up some young guns like Li Yueru, Han Xu and Li Yuan in the previous Olympic cycle.
China is bracketed with Australia, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines in Group B of the tournament which includes two groups.
After a round-robin group stage, the top finisher in each group will directly advance to the semifinals, while teams finishing second and third will play a qualification game for the semifinals.
China and Japan each climb up two spots to place seventh and eighth respectively on the latest FIBA women's world ranking, and Australia remains the highest-ranked side in the Asia-Oceania zone at world No. 3. However, FIBA rated China as the title favorite of the upcoming event by putting China on top of its Asia Women's Cup power rankings released on Tuesday.
"Surely it's time for this young and hungry team to recapture the crown," read an article on the FIBA website.
"It could be that in future years, Australia, China and Japan ensure Asia gain the crown as the most dominant continent," read a FIBA website commentary.
Zheng also thought the overall level of Asian women's basketball is on the rise.
"As Australia competes at the Asia Cup, and Japan had an excellent performance at Tokyo 2020, the level of the Asia Cup is also escalating," she noted.
Besides China, Australia and Olympic silver medalists Japan, who have been crowned Asian champions four times in a row, are also strong contenders for the title.
The top four teams will qualify for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 qualifying tournaments in February 2022, before top three finishers from each qualifying tournament complete a 12-team field for the main event of the World Cup.
In this competition system, 11-time winner China has the top four finish as its primary goal at the biennially staged Asia Cup.
"Firstly we will try to reach the last four at the tournament, and then lay a good foundation for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup qualifiers next February and the finals at a later stage," said Xu. Enditem