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China’s Li Meng (left) and Zhang Ru celebrate after beating France in the quarter-final of the Women’s Basketball World Cup. Photo: AFP

Fiba Women’s Basketball World Cup: China in semi-final for first time in 28 years, face Australia in repeat of 1994 clash

  • Coach Zheng Wei’s side overcome quarter-final curse with 85-71 win over France
  • China beat Australia in semi-final last time they played, claiming silver medal nearly 30 years ago

China play their first Fiba Women’s Basketball World Cup semi-final for almost 30 years on Friday, after an 85-71 win over France in the last eight.

Zheng Wei’s side take on hosts Australia in Sydney, and will be hoping to emulate their predecessor’s performance in 1994. China beat Australia too that year, before losing 96-87 to Brazil in the final.

On Thursday, five Chinese players hit double digits in scoring against France, led by Li Meng’s 23 points. Huang Sijing helped with 18.

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China have lost each of their previous three quarter-finals at the tournament, in 2002, 2014 and 2018.

“We needed to get the better of ourselves in this game, as we have been at this stage a few times before, but we didn’t make it,” Zheng, the China head coach, said. “It is very difficult to get over it. So we are all desperate to win today, and everyone played very well.”

After Gabby Williams helped France race to a 12-6 lead, China responded with an 18-3 surge to turn the tide, with Li Meng contributing 12 points down the stretch.

France scored five late points, including Mamignan Toure’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, to tie the first quarter at 25-25.

But China kept imposing themselves in the second quarter and opened up a 50-39 lead by half-time margin.

France roared back after the break with a 12-2 run cutting the gap to one point midway through the third quarter, but China pulled away again and effectively sealed the victory as Huang buried a three-pointer with 1:26 to play.

Zheng called Sydney, where China won the silver medal 28 years ago, a “blessed land” for the team, and said it felt great to play in front a lot of supporters.

“So long as we have been at this stage, we will try to play better in the following games,” she said.