Emma Meesseman, Julie Vanloo, Kyara Linskens and Hind Ben Abdelkader will be looking for a win against North Macedonia tonight in Leuven with the Belgian Cats.
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Emma Meesseman, Julie Vanloo, Kyara Linskens and Hind Ben Abdelkader will be looking for a win against North Macedonia tonight in Leuven with the Belgian Cats. © BELGA

Money-time tonight for the Belgian Cats! Emma Meesseman and co. will play two important European Championship qualifiers in the Leuven Sportoase this week. A 2 out of 2 is in order to stay on schedule for the 2023 European Championship on the one hand and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris on the other. “Winning tonight against North Macedonia is a must,” said Emma Meesseman, who will play a match in Belgium (Sportoase Leuven, 8:30 pm) for the first time in more than a year.

Patrick Ceulemans

No Julie Allemand in the selection of the Belgian Cats. At the beginning of this week, in isolation in Leuven, it became clear that the guard had to drop out with a foot injury. Allemand now travels back to her club ASVEL Lyon where she will continue the rehabilitation. In the selection: Nastja Claessens. The 17-year-old talent was already there in November last year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but was not on the match sheet then. Claessens will therefore be in action for the Belgian Cats for the first time tonight. She plays in the Top Division Women 1 (women’s first division) at Waregem. The three dropouts are Heleen Nauwelaers (Kangaroes Mechelen), Morgane Armant (Liège Panthers) and Serena-Lynn Geldof (Zaragoza).

North Macedonia is only 80th in the world ranking and the Belgian Cats in seventh place. They started this European Championship qualifying round with a 0 to 2 and should not be a problem for the Cats. “I’ve never played against them. So I stay on my guard and don’t underestimate any opponent. Okay, we are missing an important pawn with Julie Allemand. Julie Vanloo is working hard on guard, Elise Ramette gained international experience and with the support of our loyal and many fans, winning tonight is a must,” said Emma Meesseman. There are still tickets available for tonight’s game (online via www.basketballbelgium.be or tonight at the box office of the Sportoase in Leuven). For Sunday’s game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 3,000 tickets were gone in less than 48 hours.

Olympic Games Paris 2024 via European Championship 2023

The Belgian Cats opened the European Championship qualifying round in November last year with a narrow defeat in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a big win against Germany in Kortrijk. A two out of two is therefore in order this week to stay on the road for the 2023 European Championships in Israel/Tel Aviv and Slovenia/Ljubljana (June 15-25). The Cats must qualify for the European Championship 2023 if they want to stay on track for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The group winners of the ten groups are directly qualified for the European Championship in 2023. The four best runners-up of the eight groups of four also go to the European Championship. The Belgian Cats are going for a fourth consecutive European Championship.

Selection Belgian Cats: Elise Ramette (Cadi La Seu), Antonia Delaere (Venezia), Laure Resimont (kangaroos), Emma Maineman (Fenerbahçe), Kira Linskens (Montpellier), Hind Ben Abdelkader (Villeneuve-D’Ascq), Becky Massey (Estudiantes), Maxuella Lisowa Mbaka (Elitzur), Billy Massey (Estudiantes), Julie Vanloo (Montpellier), Ine George (Kortrijk), Nastja Claessens (Waregem)

Group A standings: 1. Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-4; 2. Belgium 2-3; 3. Germany 2-3; 4. North Macedonia 2-2Program group A 3rd matchday: 19.00 Germany-Bosnia and Herzegovina; 20.30 Belgium-North Macedonia

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