In July, the first round of qualifying for the FIBA World Cup 2023 drew to a close, with four countries eliminated from the race for one of Africa’s five tickets to the global flagship event. However, 12 countries continue unabated and will now draw attention to the crucial fourth and fifth windows.
Côte d’Ivoire and the ever-rising South Sudan emerged as the teams to beat en route to the second round. Most importantly for the two teams, they become Africa’s favorites to place the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan with a record 6-0.
Meanwhile, Egypt beat Senegal en route to an overhaul mission in this window.
New and big names were brought on board for key Window 3, with Nigeria’s Chimezie Metu and Cape Verde’s Samuel Tavares topping the list and it wasn’t long before the two stars, with the qualifiers still open and up for grabs in the Group A clashed.
7ft’ Tavares got the first laugh while Cape Verde secured an impressive win over the d’Tigers. Perhaps the late preparation argument could be made due to a premature decision by the Nigerian government to withdraw their national teams from international competitions.
However, Cape Verde’s victory over Nigeria in the first window proves that their dominance in Game 1 of Window 3 was no accident but fully deserved. They led by 15 points before a comeback from Nigeria in the fourth quarter closed them to a single point with less than 4 minutes to go.
Nonetheless, Joel Almeida’s rally put Cape Verde back on 10 points with 23 seconds on the clock. After a 2-1 record, her win with Nigeria equalized 2-2 before a win over Uganda took her top spot in Group A.
Only three countries could qualify from a group and Mali’s disqualification made things routine for the remaining three.
While Group A was an open party, a mammoth was growing in Group B and it was an unfamiliar one that even Africa’s second-placed Tunisia struggled to cope with. In their first World Cup qualifier, South Sudan had emerged dominant from the first two windows to sit near the top of Group B as one of only two teams with an unbeaten record.
And the third window was not one to break their streak as South Sudan swept aside Rwanda in its own backyard. A third-quarter save that saw Rwanda score 23-10 helped them close the score, but it wasn’t really a contest. The nature of the dive was inexplicable as Rwanda continued their poor run from the earlier qualifying windows.
Still, William Robeyns propelled them to a win against Cameroon, contributing 13 points.
Meanwhile, already qualified South Sudan were in the process of driving home the point where they are currently the hottest team on the continent, beating top-ranked Tunisia. Perhaps there was motivation beyond a desire simply to qualify, as Nuni Omot, Mareng Gatkouth and Kuany Ngor proved catalysts in Tunisia’s downfall.
They went from a 14-20 first-quarter score to a second win over the North Africans in qualifying. But that didn’t stop the Tunisians from qualifying as they followed the South Sudanese into the second round, closely followed by Cameroon.
While South Sudan set the standards in Group B, Ivory Coast looked to do the same in Group C, also boasting an unbeaten record ahead of Window 3. It was a position they were keen to retain despite stiff resistance from Childe Dundao. led Angolan side.
Angola’s efforts notwithstanding, they fell two points short as the Ivorians showed great mental toughness to defend their home-court record, with Aseiman Moulare key to their effort with 25 points and 3 assists.
Both of Angola’s losses went to Ivory Coast, leaving them second in Group C. There was a loss to Guinea, who failed to win a single game as one of three teams going into the second round with a poor record (less than three Wins).
Central African Republic’s problems were no greater, with just one win to their tally but a lower score that relegated them to last place in Group C.
The most anticipated game of Day 1 of Window 3 was served by Group D, where Egypt and Senegal met in Alexandria, with the Egyptians attempting to reverse a defeat in Window 1.
And the rollover was exactly what Egypt did, racing to a 13-point lead after the first quarter and never looking back. Assem Marei was key to the Egyptians taking the top spot in Group D, recording 10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 steals.
It was a loss to Senegal, the game ending 76-43, but that wasn’t their last concern as they emerged powerless from a repeat of their Window 2 defeat against Congo DR.
Senegal, who had won two games out of three in the first two windows, were now 2-1 in Window 3 and risked qualifying if Kenya had done their own work.
Kenya, the only team without a win in six attempts, was out of contention for qualification, completing the list of eliminated and disqualified teams ahead of the second round.
The second qualifying round resumes in August, with Guinea taking on Cape Verde and Congo DR taking on Cameroon. The games to watch out for are on August 26 against Ivory Coast and Nigeria, as well as Egypt and Tunisia.