Can African teams rise on the global stage?

JAPAN, Indonesia and the Philippines are the centres of basketball worldwide. All three nations have partnered to co-host the game’s biggest showpiece, the FIBA World Cup (25 August – 10 September).

The Big Tip Off previews the prospects of African teams, Angola, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt and South Sudan at the tournament. 

Angola

Angola are the most successful team at the continental level, with 11 AfroBasket titles and are appearing at their ninth World Cup. A country that has produced the golden generation of Joaquim Gomes, Eduardo Mingas, Olimpio Cipriano, and Carlos Morais. Now the baton has been passed on.

A new era of players has come through the ranks and have much to live up to. Players like Bruno Fernando, Gerson Lukeny, Childe Dundao and Dimitri Maconda have been the flag bearers for the Southern African nation.  

They will be in a tough Group A with the Dominican Republic led by Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl Anthony Towns. Host nation, the Philipines, who have NBA 2022 sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz) and Italy, who have had success at the international level, complete the group. 

Angola will have memories of Italy and the Philippines, their group opponents from the 2019 World Cup. And they will hope to improve on their 1-2 record from that tournament. 

Gerson Goncalves in action for Angola
Gerson Goncalves has been instrumental in leading Angola’s new generation. Picture: The BTO

Their Achilles heel at big tournaments has always been their lack of height, which could impact their chances of progress at this World Cup.

This new generation of Angolan players will want prove they are ready take the mantle of the old guard. 

Cape Verde

Cape Verde, who surprised the world, are the smallest nation to compete at the FIBA World Cup, but they will no doubt try to make giant strides.

Despite being new to this level of competition, Cape Verde, 2021 AfroBasket semi-finalists, have experienced players in their ranks.

Players like Walter Tavares, Betinho Gomes, brother Joel and Ivan Almeida have international experience at the club level.

Walter Tavares warming up for Cape Verde
Walter Tavares was a key factor Cape Verde’s qualification for the FIBA World Cup. Picture: The BTO

Their (Cape Verde) Group F also has World Cup debutants Georgia and two countries who are no strangers to this stage in Slovakia and Venezuela. The Cape Verdeans will open against Georgian team with EuroBasket experience and will feel they have nothing to lose.   

It will not be an easy ride against their experienced opponents, but Cape Verde, could have the element of surprise on their side.

Cote d’Ivoire

After a forgettable 2019 tournament, where they failed to win a game, the Elephants are looking to exorcise the demons. 

The West Africans will lean on the experience of veterans Solo Diabate, a two-time Basketball Africa League winner, and Charles Abouo. The duo are making their third appearance at the World Cup.

Cote d’Ivoire, who are making their fifth appearance, have to fight tooth and nail to get out of Group G. Against world champions Spain, boasting the likes of Juancho and Wily Hernangomez, the Ivorians will give their all.

Charles Abouo in action for Cote D'Ivoire
Charles Abouo will play in his third FIBA World Cup for Cote D’Ivoire.

Iran is the next fixture, and the two-time African champions might feel they are at par against the Asian nation.

South American juggernaut Brazil will pack just as good a punch as Spain. 

Of all the African teams, Cote d’Ivoire are in the hardest group. They will need to dig within themselves to have a fighting chance.

Egypt

The Pharaohs are making a return to the tournament after a nine-year absence. They have not had much international success and will use this World Cup to try re-establish Egypt as a force in the game.

For this World Cup, five-time African champions Egypt have assembled one of the most talented teams. From the scoring ability of Ehab Amin to the shot-blocking and rebounding prowess of centre Anas Mahmoud, the North Africans have a balanced team. 

Anas Mahmoud will step up for Egypt at the FIBA World Cup
Big man Anas Mahmoud will provide shot blocking and rebounding for Egypt. Picture FIBA

Players like Omar Araby, Patrick Gardner, Amr El Gendy and Omar Hussein will give the Egyptians positional depth. 

Egypt are in Group D with Mexico, Montenegro and European giants Lithuania.

The Pharaohs have a tough opener against Lithuania. Against Montenegro and Mexico, they (Egypt) will fancy their chances to come out of the group.

South Sudan

The South Sudanese were the continent’s best team during the World Cup qualifiers with an 11-1 record. Their record on the road to Asia speaks to their leap since becoming internationally recognised by FIBA in 2013.

On their debut international tournament, the 2021 AfroBasket, The Bright Stars finished in the quarter-finals. Their well-earned trip to the World Cup is a testament to the quality of the team. 

In Basketball Africa League champion and MVP Nuni Omot, South Sudan have a two-way threat. His ability to defend and score is a plus for the World Cup debutants. 

 

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Kuany Kuany, Wenyen Gabriel, and Carlik Jones will give the South Sudanese more scoring and defensive options. 

South Sudan will be in an interesting Group B, alongside Serbia, China and Puerto Rico. 

South Sudan does have the talent at their disposal to face the best in the world. Their opening game against Puerto Rico and their close-out game versus Serbia will test their level of competitiveness. 

 

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