|FIBA World Ranking||No. 31|
|How qualified||2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament|
|Key veteran||Shooting guard Sandra Mandir|
|Rising star||Center Marija Vrsaljo|
|Olympic medals||None (first appearance in 2012)|
|World Championship medals||None (never qualified)|
|Preliminary round group||Group A|
Croatia emerged as a force in European women's basketball at 2011 Eurobasket, where they upset Spain, a perennial European powerhouse, 75-71, to make it to the quarterfinals -- despite injuries to three of its best players. Dropping into the classification bracket after falling to the Czech Republic, 79-63, in the quarters, Croatia finished fifth, which was enough to secure the right to compete for an Olympic berth at the 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament for women.
There, the Croatians proved that their Eurobasket success was no fluke, powering through the tournament undefeated to punch a ticket to the London Olympics with a hard-fought 59-56 victory over Canada.
The team is led by 34-year-old do-it-all point guard Sandra Mandir, who averaged 12.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, while shooting 71.4 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and finished fifth on the Eurobasket leader board in scoring with 14.3 points per game on 49.2 percent field-goal shooting. Despite Croatia's elimination in the quarterfinals, Mandir's performance earned her a place on the Eurobasket All-Tournament team.
The Croatians boast good height, excellent ball movement and a solid inside-outside game, with the post anchored by rising star Marija Vrsaljko, a 6-6 center who will turn 23 during the Olympics. Vrsaljko averaged a team-high 14.7 points per game at the Qualifying Tournament, exploding for 26 points, plus seven boards and two blocks, against Korea. If Vrsaljko has a downside, it's her lack of range, but let her get the ball down low, where she shoots 65.4 percent from short range, and she will make opponents pay. And they don't want to put her at the line either, where she knocks them down to the tune of 83.3 percent from the line. Power forward Jelena Ivezic (6-1) and Ana Lelas, a 6-0 wing, are also double-digit scoring threats. The team's greatest weakness is a sharp fall-off in talent off the bench, rendering the Croatians vulnerable to foul troubles and injuries.
With all of their starters now back in good form, however, Croatia is poised for an impressive performance in its Olympic debut -- if the Eastern Europeans can avoid the injury bug as they make their way through the preliminaries. Though the United States eviscerated Croatia in an exhibition match in Turkey on July 21, suggesting Croatia, for all it's talents is not yet ready to vie for a medal, this is a team that cannot be overlooked, and could very well make it through to the quarterfinals out of the weaker Pool A.
- London 2012: Angola -- Just happy to be there
- London 2012: Australia -- Can team training offset the loss of Penny Taylor?
- London 2012: Brazil -- With Castro Marques gone, so are Brazil's medal hopes
- London 2012: Canada -- Needs a little luck to advance
- London 2012: China -- It's been a struggle since Beijing
- London 2012: Czech Republic -- Experience plus size could equal a medal
- London 2012: France -- It's now or never for Les Bleus
- London 2012: Great Britain -- Hosts hoping for a win
- London 2012: Russia -- As usual, an enigma
- 2012 London: Turkey -- Plenty of size, but shooters are the key
- London 2012: The United States -- Only gold will satisfy