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2010 FIBA World Championship for Women: USA v Australia
Does it matter who wins ?
Stella Kaltsidou of Greece has a very good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams most people expect to reach the Final of the FIBA World Championship - the United States and Australia.
The Greeks played both teams, falling to the USA 99-73 on opening night in Ostrava and then losing to Australia several days later, 93-54.
"I think they are totally different teams," she said.
"The United States are better individually, but Australia are playing better as a team.
"The way they are playing is different.
"I'd like to watch them play each other."
Kaltsidou will get her wish because on Wednesday night, the United States and Australia will square off in a battle of unbeatens.
The winners will finish top of Group E and face the fourth-place team from Group F in the Quarter-Finals.
The losers will end up second and take on the third-place team in Group F in the last eight.
Australia coach Carrie Graf says it doesn't matter which side wins this game.
"The result doesn't matter if you win that one and bomb out in the Final," she said after Australia's 62-52 triumph over France.
"It's not about the result, but the process.
"Everything isn't riding on that game so you have to be intelligent about how you play."
Graf said she will not show all her cards in the contest and doesn’t expect USA coach Geno Auriemma to do so, either.
Australia's Lauren Jackson, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds against France, definitely wants to beat the Americans.
"We want to win no matter what," she said, "but we are very well aware of the situation.
"As a team, we need to focus on what we need to do to win the whole thing. We know that on a good day, we can give them a run for their money."
Australia weren't able to play the Americans on the way to their gold medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women because Russia upset the USA in the Semi-Finals.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the USA hammered the Opals in the Final.
Both sides have undergone a lot of changes since then, however.
Each has a new coach and several new players.
The Americans do not have the powerful one-two punch of Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson down low anymore, but they do have Sylvia Fowles and newcomers Tina Charles and Candice Dupree.
Dupree has been arguably the best player in the tournament.
On the perimeter, the Americans are as strong as ever with Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and newcomers Angel McCoughtry and Lindsay Whalen.
Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash are experienced and very important to the USA, but so are the youngsters like University of Connecticut star Maya Moore, a 6ft guard that is averaging 8.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Moore plays for Auriemma at UConn, just as several other players in the USA squad once did.
Australia have Jackson, Penny Taylor, Kristi Harrower, Belinda Snell, Erin Phillips, Tully Bevilaqua and Hollie Grima from the 2006 team, yet they also have newcomers Liz Cambage, Jenna O'Hea, Marianna Tolo, Abby Bishop and Samantha Richards.
Jackson, the MVP of both the WNBA Regular Season and Finals after leading the Storm to the title, has just come off an emotionally-charged WNBA Finals with the Seattle Storm.
She led Seattle to the title.
"I think we saw signs (against France) of what she did in the WNBA," Graf said.
"She had a turnaround jumper, the rebounding.
"It's still an emotional thing for her getting up. Physically she's fine. It's just that emotional stuff."
The player that really impresses Auriemma, though, was the MVP of the World Championship four years ago.
“Penny Taylor is so good,” Auriemma said.
“Everybody talks about Lauren – Lauren’s a great player – but to me I think Penny Taylor is what makes it work at both ends of the floor.”
There is a very good possibility that these two teams will play after Wednesday, too.
Should the teams win their Quarter-Finals, and Semi-Finals, they would meet in the title game.
If the result isn't that important to Graf, it definitely is for Auriemma.
"There are some teams that play one way when the game means something and they play a different way when the game doesn't mean something,” he said.
"In my trips to Europe, I've seen that a couple of times, when the team - if the game doesn't have any significance - will not play to win all the time and they will try to match up to see who they will play in the next round.
"I don't think tomorrow (Wednesday) will be anything like that.
"I think you've got two teams that really want to win, that really want to beat each other.”
The USA, because of having to settle for a bronze medal in 2006, desperately want to not only capture gold this time but to do so by going undefeated.
"You've got a lot of players on their team and a lot of players on our team that are very familiar with each other,” Auriemma said.
“I think tomorrow is going to be like the gold-medal game. I think it's going to be played like that.
"I know it is on our end.
"There's no guarantee that either Australia or the United States will be in the gold-medal game. We may not play each other again.
“Tomorrow we're going to play to win. I'm sure they are."FIBA
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