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Preview: Team USA plays Belgium in FIBA World Cup semifinals for spot in championship game

The USA women’s national team will play for a medal, but they don’t want to go for the bronze.

Sue Bird and Team USA will have their hands full against Belgium on Saturday.
Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images

The United States plays Belgium in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup semifinals for a spot in the gold medal game. Here is what to look for!

Game info

When: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Where: Tenerife, Spain (Santiago Martín Arena)

How to watch: ESPNEWS (national TV), LiveBasketball.TV (worldwide streaming with fee)

Injuries: Brittney Griner (ankle) and Elena Delle Donne (knee) have injuries for the USA and Ann Wauters (knee) isn’t at 100 percent for Belgium. But all should be playing.

Rankings: The USA is ranked first in the world. Belgium is 28th and qualified for the World Cup after winning the bronze medal in EuroBasket Women 2017.

Results from the quarterfinals: The USA beat Nigeria 71-40, while Belgium beat France 86-65.

Storylines to follow

The United States comes into the semifinals without being seriously tested, but that comes to an end today. They are playing the World Cup Cinderella and will be assuming the role of “Goliath.”

Except that “David” is “David” in name only. Belgium has rapidly become one of Europe’s elite teams thanks to a combination of high-level talent and great chemistry. Sure, Belgium is the lowest-ranked team left in the World Cup, but the rankings include team records back to 2010. So these rankings aren’t an accurate representation of the team today.

Belgium shocked the continent to win bronze in EuroBasket Women 2017. And in this World Cup, they defeated Spain comfortably in group play to earn a quarterfinals berth that few besides the Belgian players themselves thought was possible.

Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman leads the Belgians and is showing her prowess as a scorer, rebounder and passer. Team USA will have to put many defenders on her, but they won’t be able to play her too physically. Though the Americans’ position of strength is at the low post, Belgium has longtime WNBA center Ann Wauters and Kyara Linskens who can play more physically than Meesseman, who prefers more finesse.

The Americans should be more worried about the Belgian guard rotation. Kim Mestdagh is the Belgians’ leading scorer and she is as good of a three-point shooter as anyone in the WNBA. Meanwhile, Julie Allemand, Julie Vanloo and Marjorie Carpreaux are all point guards who know how to orchestrate an offense and score themselves. Team USA doesn’t have that on a consistent basis once Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are on the bench.

To be clear, the United States has more talent and depth than Belgium. They should win on paper. But Belgium is playing better than the United States as a unit and the Americans, even experienced veterans like Bird and Taurasi, probably know little about Belgium’s players besides Meesseman, Wauters and perhaps Mestdagh.

Today’s game will be an exciting match to see and the USA will be tested by a team that has the chemistry and enough talent to beat them. May the best team win.