Belgium has a thing for creating history. They did it again with an 86-65 win over France on Friday in the World Cup.
Emma Meesseman scored 16 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the win, but she wasn’t the biggest contributor tonight. In fact, she only played 23 minutes and didn’t play much in the second half, presumably to rest her up before the semifinals which are tomorow.
It was point guard Julie Allemand who dished 13 assists, nine of them in the first half as the Belgians raced to a 53-31 halftime lead. Kim Mestdagh scored 18 of her 23 points in the first half as well. In the second half, France made their inevitable run to get their deficit down closer to 12 points after falling to a 61-33 deficit at one point in the third quarter, but it was too little, too late.
For France, this was a disappointing World Cup. There was chatter about Liberty point guard (and former Mystic) Bria Hartley playing for the French because she has dual citizenship through her mother. However, she ultimately did not play on the team. Then, they finished this World Cup second in their group to Canada, and now lost to a northern neighbor that was all but irrelevant in international women’s basketball just two or three years ago.
But for Belgium, this game confirms that their time is now. Meesseman has played spectacular, even if her scoring hasn’t been as high as Mestdagh’s. This team has played in great form throughout much of the past year. We’ve seen the Belgian Cats get a bronze medal in EuroBasket Women 2017, the qualifiers for the 2019 tournament which still aren’t done yet, and now this year’s World Cup.
Tomorrow will be Belgium’s biggest test when they play the United States. Team USA has also advanced to the quarterfinals, but they have played inconsistent basketball throughout this tournament and aren’t even 100 percent healthy. I’m most concerned about guard play, where most younger guards not named Sue Bird or Diana Taurasi hasn’t played particularly well throughout the tournament.
Belgium’s best player may be Meesseman, but their strength is at the guard position. Mestdagh, Allemand, Julie Vanloo, and Marjorie Carpreaux have played very well together and given opponents fits.
In short, Belgium is the type of team that is in a very good position to beat the United States tomorrow, where the Americans are coming off a compressed WNBA season and are probably not thrilled about a back-to-back-to-back. The Belgians will have to do the same, but they’ve left any complaints about fatigue at the door.
Either way, tomorrow will be a historic day, not just for Belgian basketball, but for Mystics fans as well. It will be really exciting to see Elena Delle Donne go head to head against Emma Meesseman, and there’s a good chance that the Belgians, not the Americans will come out on top.