February 8, 2020 / 11:47 PM / 5 months ago

Basketball: China lead the way to Tokyo in women's qualifiers

(Reuters) - China secured their slot in this year’s women’s Tokyo Olympics basketball tournament on Saturday with Canada, France and Nigeria following them through after a day of qualifiers in Europe.

Hosts Japan and world champions the United States had already qualified, meaning half of the 12-team field is now decided.

China edged European champions Spain 64-62 in a tense Group B qualifier in Belgrade, with South Korea well-placed to join them on Sunday.

Also in Belgrade, the U.S. team beat Mozambique 124-49 in a result that ensured Nigeria — who had already overcome their African rivals on Thursday — qualified despite losing 70-64 to hosts Serbia.

France beat Brazil 89-72 in Bourges while Canada secured a berth for the third Games in a row by beating Sweden 80-50 in the Belgian city of Ostend.

The Group B Belgrade qualifiers had to be moved from the city of Foshan as a result of the coronavirus epidemic but China took that in their stride.

They beat Britain 86-76 on Thursday and, with the top three in the four-team group qualifying for Tokyo, made sure of their ticket after holding off a late fightback by the Spaniards.

China were 15 points clear in the second quarter but Spain, still second in the group, roared back into the lead with Alba Torrens netting six in a row before a decisive Shao Ting lay-up with a minute to go.

The Chinese women were runners-up at the 1992 Barcelona Games and will be appearing at their ninth Olympics in Tokyo.

South Korea beat Britain 82-79 in a later match that was a must-win for two teams realistically fighting for third in the group.

Britain have never before qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament on merit, appearing only as host nation previously, but had arrived in Belgrade hoping for a breakthrough.

They will now have to beat Spain on Sunday to have any hope of qualifying.

“The girls did a great job to come back in the fourth and to get as close as they did. I think maybe we just started to chip away a bit too late,” said Britain forward Chantelle Handy.

“But you know, we still have one more chance. So it’s not over...we cannot dwell on this game.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Ken Ferris, Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar

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