The FIBA World Cup Finals tipped off over the weekend in China. It is the biggest basketball fiesta on the planet, where the best of best come to show their skills, in a battle for the biggest prize in the game of basketball.
Our boys D’Tigers have been on display in Group B. Despite having lost their first two games, they have not played very badly. But now, they are have to work extra hard to beat Korea and save face at least. But depending on whether Russia can beat Korea Monday afternoon, D’Tigers could be well out of the FIBA World Cup.
So what went wrong, and what are the chances of success for D’Tigers?
The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup is the 18th tournament of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. At the end of the World Cup, the top two teams from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, will join the tournament’s host China, to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo next year.
It’s Nigeria’s third outing at the competition, the first being in 1998, and the second being in 2006 in Japan. D’Tigers are drawn in Group B alongside Russia, Argentina, and South Korea, with her first match tipping off Saturday 31st August 2019.
Teams to Watch
Serbia looks like favourites for the title, and of course they are a good team to stake on. Currently ranking number one in the world, they have some of the best passers in the game. Players like Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, and another maestro and point guard Milos Teodosic. They have said only the trophy would satisfy their hunger. Serbia’s Coach has said, “Let them play their basketball and we will play ours, and if we meet them, may God help them.”
The USA are the Defending Champions, and have won the FIBA World cup 5 times, including the last two editions. Of the over 60 players expected to play in the games, about 12 of them play in the US NBA. Also, the NBA is the most developed league in the world, with players earning the highest in the sport. However the key players in the NBA would not be representing the USA in the tournament. While the US does have some great athletes, and lacks no talent, this time, they will face real opposition to emerge champions.
Also, Australia beat the US in the build up to the World Cup, ending the USA’s 78 game unbeaten run in international play, a proof that the US are not invincible. However, they have a crop of ageing players, who are not the best of athletes.
Spain are another great team to watch out for. Drawn in group C, alongside Iran, Tunisia, and Puerto Rico, they are expected to top the group with the other jostling for second spot. But much of their players are over 30, and a team with some excellent athletes would be a threat to the Spaniards.
France seem to have one of the best defense in the tournament. Rudy Gobert is like a basketball Van Dijk, somewhat like a bulwark at the field goal area, Frank Ntilikina, Elie Okobo, and Co. on the backcourt defense are somewhat impassable. While Evan Fournier on the offense is always dangerous. The French team is not one to write off.
World heavyweights like the USA, Serbia, France, Spain, Australia, Turkey, Lithuania will be gunning for the title.
For Nigeria, we had an impressive run to the World Cup with wins against Canada, Poland, Montenegro, and Dominican Republic. D’Tigers were the only team from Africa to have scored more than 1,000 points in the World cup qualifiers. We are currently ranked number 7 in the world.
We were placed in Group B alongside Russia, Argentina, and Korea. Not a very easy group, but frankly, not the worst group to be, given our quality too. Star Players to watch out for
- Nikola Jokic (Serbia)
- Kemba Walker (USA)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)
- Rudy Gobert (France)
- Mark Gasol (Spain
Nigeria boasts of some great players including, veteran Ike Diogu, Al-Farouq Aminu of Orlando Magic, Stan Okoye, Ben Uzoh, and Nigeria’s highest scoring player Jordan Nwora who coincidentally is the biological son of the team Coach Alexander Nwora. The pair became the first Nigerian Father and Son to represent a National team side at the same time. The team also include Metuh Chimezie of San Antonio Spurs. A number of them already have playing experience in the NBA, and should prove trheir worth in the game against Korea.
Last Saturday Russia defeated Nigeria 82-77 in the first match of Group B, though we almost upset them. D’Tigers were comfortable in the opening exchanges in the fourth quarter and led 60-58 at a point in the game. With four minutes left, we were leading the Russians 71-68. But the Russians rallied back with score levelled at 75-75 with less than a minute left, and it sadly ended 82-77. Coach Nwora said the team has learned from the loss and her focus was now on the next game.
In the next group game played on Sunday, Nigeria also failed to win, losing 94-81 to Argentina. It was the third game between Nigeria and Argentina in the World Cup, and Argentina have now won all three of the meetings, despite ranking number 8 in the world just below Nigeria.
So in our next game against Korea, all hands must be on deck. This will be D’Tigers first competitive game against Korea.
Hindsight and Insight
I think the first game was absolutely crucial for D’Tigers, and it was a shame that we lost it despite playing so well. This loss meant we were playing under pressure against Argentina, and we did not deliver. Hopefully we would play under less pressure in the final game against Korea.
Only the top two teams from the group will make it to the next round. Again, if you look at the Russian and Argentine teams, they did not really outplay and outclass D’Tigers, we just lack that scoring edge, and defensive weight to hold our own. In yesterday’s match coach Nwora retained the lineup that lost to Russia, starring Benjamin Uzoh, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu. We expect some tactical changes in the game against Korea, and hope to see D’Tigers in some fine scoring form, since we really do not have much to lose.
If we play well with composure and discipline we should get maximum points from the game against Korea.
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