The Belgium women’s national basketball team played Spain on Friday in Wevelgem, West Flanders in front of a full crowd of about 1,200 fans. They were able to keep the score close and were losing by just five after three quarters, but they ultimately lost, 69-59. You can watch the entire game in the video stream above. Note that almost all of it is in Dutch.
Emma Meesseman scored 16 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished 5 assists, and stole the ball 3 times in the loss, while Ann Wauters added 20 more points for Belgium. For Spain, UMMC forward Alba Torrens scored 19 points off the bench while Laura Gil had a double double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
As you might expect, the Spanish were in control. They led nearly the entire game, outrebounded the Belgians 36-25, and they had a deeper bench. However, the Belgians proved that they have enough talent to make this a very interesting contest should the two meet in a EuroBasket Women elimination game. Let’s first get to some info about tomorrow’s game, and some takeaways for Saturday:
Gametime: 2:30 p.m. ET in Wevelgem, West Flanders, Belgium
Who’s out: Sancho Lyttle is out for Spain because she’s still in the WNBA right now.
Key Points for Saturday
Let Meesseman continue to be assertive - If you’re a Mystics fan who criticizes Meesseman for being passive, I suggest that you watch these friendlies and the EuroBasket Women games as well.
The Belgian Cats have designed their system around Meesseman and her strengths better than the Mystics have. In other words, this team knows Meesseman better than the Mystics’ current players do. They know what to do when she’s trying to pass the ball and they know when to get the ball to her for a shot. I see that more often than not with Belgium. I don’t see that as much with the Mystics.
None of this is meant to insinuate that the Mystics aren’t doing what’s best for them or for Meesseman of course. But the bottom line is that Belgium has more familiarity with her. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the team is around Meesseman’s age as well since they’re in their early to mid 20’s.
Keep Anna Cruz and Alba Torrens under control - Belgium kept starting guard Anna Cruz under control as she only shot 1 of 5 from the field for four points. That’s good. But they also should try to keep Torrens from going on a hot streak since she made three of Spain’s threes.
Someone else besides Kim Mestdagh must get hot from three - Belgium only made 2 of 12 threes on Friday, all by Kim Mestdagh. Fortunately, they kept Spain minus Torrens from going bonkers. Belgium has done quite well with three point shooting in qualifiers, and they have a good number of three point shooters like Meesseman of course. Someone else needs to get hot from three which should open up the playbook.
Improve the rebounding - Spain out-rebounded Belgium, 36-25. I put the blame on Ann Wauters, who only managed to grab one rebound. If Marcin Gortat got called out for grabbing only one rebound by former Wizards head coach Randy Wittman, Wauters should as well by Philip Mestdagh. A 6’5 player who’s the second best player on this team should grab many more than ONE REBOUND in a game.
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Now, let’s get to some more fun tidbits between Belgium and Spain.
The Southern Netherlands and Spain share a long relationship
Though today’s Belgium was the southern part of the Netherlands for much of its history, the Southern Netherlands were also controlled or influenced by Spain from 1581-1714, right after the northern Netherlands formed their own republic after the Eighty Years War between the Spanish and the Dutch. The northern part is more or less the modern-day Netherlands.
If there’s one thing that Belgium and Spain share historically, it is religion. Historically, most Spanish and Belgian people are Catholic, while northern Dutch people are historically Protestant. The architecture in Belgian cities also has a clear Catholic influence to it like many Spanish cities do. You won’t see as much of that in the Netherlands.
Belgians of Spanish Descent
With the European Union getting closer over the past several decades (unless it’s the United Kingdom), it’s no surprise to see Belgians whose parents are from other EU nations, and vice versa. Let’s start with Belgian people who have Spanish roots.
Yannick Carrasco - He’s best known as a winger for Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid and the Rode Duivels/Les Diables Rouges, the Belgian men’s national team. Carrasco is one of the products of Belgium’s current Golden Age in soccer, and was also the first Belgian to score in a Champions League Final in 2016 vs. Real Madrid.
Carrasco was born and raised in Elsene (Ixelles), Brussels where he speaks his native French and Dutch, and Spanish since he plays in Spain. How do Belgians speak so many languages so seamlessly?
Jonatan Cerrada - Cerrada hails from Liège. He won the French Pop Idol contest back in 2003. His most notable hit is “Je voulais te dire que je t'attends” (I wanted to tell you I'm waiting for you) which topped the Belgian French charts. Cerrada’s fallen off the map since, but again, he topped the charts!
Spaniards of Belgian Descent
Of course, there are also Spanish people who have Belgian roots. If you are a Spanish language music fan, you may know one of them rather well:
Alvaro Soler - Soler is a pop singer whose parents are German and Belgian. His most notable song to American audiences — but not Spanish or Belgian ones — is a version of “El Mismo Sol” with Jennifer Lopez (above).
Iñaki Urdangarin - Urdangarin is a retired handball player where he was part of the Spanish national teams that won the bronze medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He married Infanta Cristina of Spain, who is one of the daughters of the former King, Juan Carlos I.
It’s a big weekend for the Belgian Cats. If they can split one of these two matches, it will be a big thing for sure.