Beginning Aug. 14, each team in a group will play every team in their group
once before the Olympic quarterfinals begin on Aug. 25. The fifth and sixth
place finishers in each group will play for ninth through 12th place on Aug.
24. The top four finishing teams from each preliminary-round group advance to
the medal-round quarterfinals. The semifinals will be held on Aug 27, and the
finals -- including the gold-medal game -- will be held on Aug. 28.
United States (Group B, Defending World Champion)
The two-time defending Olympic gold medalists and world champions will
be the team to beat once again when things tip off in Athens. Featuring
a healthy mix of experienced veterans, including Lisa
Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes,
Katie Smith and Dawn
Staley, as well as a crop of budding international superstars, the
U.S. team can dominate teams in the paint and shoot the lights out from
Best Finish: Gold Medal: 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000 Key Players: Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Katie Smith, Tina Thompson,
Australia (Group A, Oceania Zone #1)
Since 1984, Australia has improved in each Olympic appearance, finishing
fifth in 1984, fourth in 1988, taking the bronze in 1996 and silver in
2000. They will don the one-piece spandex unis again in Athens, but will
draw more attention for their play than for their appearance. With Lauren
Jackson, arguably the best player in the world, the Opals may be the
only team that can compete with the Americans on the inside. The Aussies,
who also went 5-0 in pool play in 2000, will also feature a team of current
and former WNBA stars in Athens including Mercury forward Penny
Brazil (Group A, Americas Zone #1)
The 2000 Olympic bronze and 1996 silver medalists have continued to dedicate
themselves to improving on the international stage. At 35, former Comets
star Janeth Arcain is one of the best players in the world and even took
a year off from WNBA competition to stay at home and train with her national
team. Helen Luz, Iziane Castro Marques and Adriana Pinto are among the
several former WNBA players to round a deep and talented roster.
Best Finish: Silver Medal: 1996 Key Players: Janeth Arcain, Alessandra Santos de Oliveira, Iziane
Castro Marques, Helen Luz
Russia (Group A, European Zone #1)
Along with the United States, Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has
one of the richest histories in women's basketball. A unified Russian
team was the last non-American team to win Olympic gold (in 1992) and
also took top honors in 1976 and 1980. However, the Russians finished
a disapointing fifth and sixth respectively in 1996 and 2000. Liberty
center Elena Baranova
will once again be a focal point for the Russian attack.
Best Finish: Gold Medal: 1976, 1980, 1992 Key Players: Elena Baranova, Maria Stepanova
Czech Republic (Group B, European Zone #2)
One of the more unheralded countries that is more than capable of surprising
some teams and even winning medal is the Czech Republic. The Czechs got
a much needed confidence boost after beating Australia (playing without
Jackson or Taylor) on Aug. 2 in its last game before heading to Greece.
However, they must overcome the loss of European Championships' MVP Lucie
Blahuskova behind them, who will not play in Athens due to a knee injury.
In 2001, the Czechs won the gold medal at the FIBA Junior World Championships
and won the silver at the 2003 FIBA European qualifiers
Best Finish: Fourth: 1976 Key Players: Zuzi Klimesova, Eva Viteckova, Romana Hamzova
China (Group B, Asia Zone #1)
China earned its fifth Olympic berth after capturing the 2004 Asia Championship
gold medal. In its first appearance in 1984, China captured the bronze
medal. In 1992, they earned the silver medal. Most recently, China hosted
the 2002 World Championships and finished in sixth place.
Best Finish: Silver medal: 1992 Key Players: Nan Chen, Li Ye, Lijie Miao
South Korea (Group B, Asia Zone #3)
The Koreans lost a thrilling double-overtime semifinal game to Japan in
the 2004 Asian Championships, finishing with a 5-1 record, the bronze
medal and an Olympic berth. Having participated in four of the past five
Games, South Korea is no stranger to Olympic competition. They earned
their only medal, a silver, in 1984. After disappointing showings at recent
Games, the Koreans bounced back to finish fourth at the 2002 World Championships
and should return their top three scorers from the 2002 event.
Best Finish: Silver Medal: 1984 Key Players: Yeong-Ok Kim, Jung Sun-Min, J. Lee
Spain (Group B, European Zone #3)
Spain will be participating in their second Olympic Games after competing
as the host nation in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and finishing in fifth
place. They also finished an impressive fifth at the 1998 and 2002 World
Championships. In 1992, the United States defeated Spain by 55 points,
but in the finals of a tournament prior to the 2004 games in Salamanca,
Japan (Group A, Asia Zone #2)
Japan will be competing in their third Olympiad after finishing fifth
in the inaugural 1976 Games and seventh in 1996. The U.S. and Japan have
met two times before in the Olympics, with each nation winning once. Japan
finished with the silver medal in the 2004 Asia championship and 13th
overall in the 2002 FIBA World Championships. The U.S. bested Japan in
three straight exhibition games earlier this year.
New Zealand (Group B, Oceania Zone #2)
The Kiwis are looking to improve on their disappointing 2000 Olympics,
where they finished 1-5 overall, good enough for 11th out of the 12 places.
New Zealand finished as the second ranked country from FIBA Oceania, falling
to Australia twice in the best of three series. However, they hired former
Australia national team coach and Washingtron Mystics coach Tom Maher
to steer the way. Maher previously led Australia to the 2000 Olympic silver
medal and the 1996 Olympic bronze medal in Atlanta.
Nigerian (Group A, Africa Zone #1)
The 2004 Games will mark Nigeria's first time competing in at the Olympics,
but won the 2003 African championship.
Best Finish: N/A Key Players: Mfon Udoka, Mactabene Amachree
Greece (Group A, Host)
As the host nation, Greece earned an automatic bid to compete in the 2004
Games. It will be the first Olympics for the Greek women. Greece finished
in ninth place at the 2003 FIBA Europe Olympic Qualifier with a 3-4 record.
Best Finish: N/A Key Players: Anastasia Kostaki, Evanthia Maltsi