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Where things stand after the FIBA World Cup qualifiers' second window

Where things stand after the FIBA World Cup qualifiers' second window

If you’ve been overly consumed with the NBA and college basketball, are locked into other things in the world, or mainly come here for film stuff and have no idea who I am or what this is about to be, then welcome to the biggest international fiesta on BasketballNews.com!

There’s only one window left in Round 1 of the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers, but a bunch of countries have already punched their tickets to the next phase this past week. That means your ancestors might be somewhere between thrilled or pissed depending on how the squad from your homeland performed.

To briefly reiterate, in case you missed it: this past week was the second window of FIBA World Cup qualifiers for men’s basketball. The qualifying windows run through February 2023, which will determine the 32 qualified teams competing in next summer’s World Cup. These six qualifying windows are split into two rounds — three windows each — the first of which concludes this coming June and July. Now, you’ll see why so many teams have qualified to Round 2 automatically.

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Americas Region

Automatically Advancing: Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, Dominican Republic, United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico 

Already Eliminated: Cuba

Group A: World No. 17 Venezuela, who's seen recent international success with appearances in the 2016 Summer Olympics and 2019 World Cup, is off to a 4-0 start in qualifying. Venezuela notably defeated world No. 7 Argentina 71-58 in Buenos Aires, and is likely en route to another World Cup bid if their play continues. Panama, who is No. 50, nearly defeated Argentina as well, losing just 65-58 in Buenos Aires, and were leading 51-49 heading into the third quarter. Panama is 1-3, though, after blowing out Paraguay 81-59, the closest Paraguay kept any game in qualifiers so far. You probably know where this is going …

Group B: Similar to Group A, Brazil at 4-0 and Uruguay at 3-1, are atop the table and will advance to Round 2. No. 15 Brazil is one of the mainstays of the Americas, having qualified for every World Cup since 1950, which includes two gold medals in 1959 and 1963. Brazil has a +115 point-differential and hasn’t had a victory by fewer than 19 points. Uruguay, who is No. 41, hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1986 after fairly regularly competing at the level from the 1950s through 1980s. 1-3 Chile will compete with 0-4 Colombia for the last spot.

Group C: With an excess of NBA talent eligible if they were to qualify for the World Cup and Olympics, No. 18 Canada is off to a strong 4-0 start, led by names you’ll recognize, like Kyle Wiltjer, Kyle Alexander and Anthony Bennett (yup, that one). Canada, as talented as they’ve been, finished 21st in the 2019 World Cup, didn’t qualify for 2014, finished 22nd in 2010 and didn’t qualify in 2006. In that same vein, they’ve been Olympic sober since their 2000 appearance. Otherwise, in this group, the Dominican Republic is 3-1, with their only loss being 85-79 to Canada, and still have a +85 point differential because of their one blowout win over the Bahamas, and two wide victories over the 0-4 Virgin Islands. The Bahamas, who defeated the Virgin Islands, now have two World Cup qualifying wins ever, and have a pathway to Round 2.

Group D: Team USA and Mexico are both 3-1, but Team USA avenged their November loss to Mexico with a 89-67 blowout win in Washington D.C., giving them a +35 point differential, thanks to the Joe Johnson-led group from February. Because Team USA is No. 1, Mexico’s No. 24 ranking shouldn’t take much of a hit given how they’ve overachieved so far. Puerto Rico, who is 2-2, automatically moves on due to both their wins coming against Cuba. Puerto Rico also has a narrow 90-86 loss to Mexico from November, and are the only team in this group who has not yet played a home game. All of the November games were in Mexico, while Cuba and the United States only played home games last week. If the July games are held in, for example, San Juan, Puerto Rico will host the United States and Mexico in an effort to move up the standings.

(I’m Puerto Rican, so you’re getting our highlights.)

MORE INFO ON THE AMERICAS REGION

African Region

No one in the African Region has officially moved on yet because everyone’s played three games, meaning everyone has three more. That said, the best story coming out of the second window — maybe in the entire qualifying pool — is South Sudan.

Group B: A few months ago, South Sudan was ranked No. 94 in the world, and moved up to No. 82 on the most recent early December poll reveal. In three games in as many days, they handled No. 84 Rwanda 68-56, shocked 2021 AfroBasket champions and world No. 28 Tunisia — the second highest-ranked team in the African region — 72-64, then outlasted Cameroon 74-68, holding a firm lead in Group B as one of two African teams to go undefeated last week.

(The other is Group C’s Cote d'Ivoire, but Group C didn’t play in this window and will return in July.)

South Sudan finished seventh in AfroBasket in 2021, and have not yet qualified for a World Cup since joining FIBA in 2013.

Group D: The only others to play in this window, featuring Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Kenya. Senegal, DR Congo and Egypt are all 2-1. Senegal beat Egypt and Kenya but lost to DR Congo. DR Congo overcame Kenya and Senegal but were defeated by Egypt. And Egypt won against Kenya and DR Congo but lost to Senegal. Thankfully, they can figure out all that in July…

Among the 2-1 teams in Group D, only Senegal qualified in the 2019 World Cup, who went 0-3 in group play and finished 30th in the final standings.

MORE INFO ON THE AFRICAN REGION

Asian Region

Automatically Advancing: New Zealand, Philippines, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Iran, Japan

Disqualified: South Korea

Group A: In last week’s update, it was noted that South Korea forfeited a game due to COVID-19 cases, and they have since been disqualified, meaning New Zealand and India will instantly move on from Group A, as well as the Philippines — but they’re in anyway as World Cup hosts. They’re all just playing for position in June and July. It also makes South Korea officially the first 2019 World Cup participant that’ll miss the 2023 tournament. Currently, after defeating India 101-46 and 95-60, also beating the Philippines 88-63, New Zealand has a stranglehold on first place, with only a game against the Philippines remaining.

Group B: Australia marched out to a 3-0 record with wins over Japan, China and Chinese Taipei all of which were by at least 16 points. China, who is 2-0 after beating Japan twice, will challenge Australia for first place in June, where they’re scheduled to face off twice. Japan is currently 1-3, only having beaten Chinese Taipei by five —in a game that was held in Japan — so they’ll duke it out for the final spot in the group that’ll make Round 2. Regardless, Japan is one of the host countries for the World Cup, so they’ll automatically qualify.

Group C: Jordan and Lebanon, both of whom are 3-1, will move onto Round 2. Jordan has qualified for two World Cups in its history, including 2019, where they defeated Senegal, their first and only World Cup win. Jordan defeated them in their head-to-head last week, 74-63, giving them first place. Saudi Arabia, who is 2-2 and in third, gave Jordan their only loss, 72-64, in Jeddah. Indonesia, again, is hosting the World Cup with the Philippines and Japan, does not have their qualification guaranteed, and you’re seeing why. Of all the teams in World Cup qualifications, they have the worst point differential, -163, and the next closest is Paraguay, at -136. Indonesia has lost games by the following scores: 96-38, 110-64, 95-66, and 94-64.

Group D: Challenging South Sudan for the best story of the World Cup is no. 70 Kazakhstan, who is 4-0, and even defeated No. 23 Iran in Tehran 73-69. Kazakhstan has never qualified for a World Cup, so this gives them their best chance to do so — even as teams like Australia, and China will await them when groups merge. Iran is 3-1, and both them and Kazakhstan have put beatings on Syria and Bahrain, who will compete for third place this summer.

MORE INFO ON THE ASIAN REGION

European Region

Automatically Advancing: Serbia, Latvia, Greece, Finland, Germany, France, Lithuania, Georgia,

Group A: Serbia and Latvia are 3-1 each, though Serbia won their head-to-head in November, 101-100, in one of the best games of qualifying so far. Belgium, who is 2-2 here, defeated Serbia 73-69 in November, and only lost 66-65 to and 68-63 to Latvia last week. They’ll get to pick on 0-4 Slovakia once before getting a chance to knock off Serbia again this summer — though this time, it won’t be in Mons. Still, expect them to move on.

Group B: The Antetokounmpo-less Greek squad is 3-1 after a 2-0 week, and only lost to Great Britain in November. No one else in this group, which also features Turkey and Belarus, has more than a single win. Here’s why: first, Turkey is 1-3, putting their World Cup qualification streak of five, including a 2010 silver medal, in jeopardy. Great Britain and Belarus were scheduled to play each other twice last week, but both games were canceled and are now TBD. Why? The United Kingdom canceled Belarus’ visas because of the country’s stance as a Russian ally amid the Russia-Ukraine invasion. More on that in a bit …

Group C: Finland, who is No. 35 in the world, has two wins over No. 4 Slovenia (without Luka Dončić, it should be noted), and another over No. 21 Croatia, surprisingly standing atop the table for what could be their second World Cup appearance ever — if they continue at this pace. Slovenia and Sweden are 2-2 each, and Croatia is just 1-3. Croatia's only win came in double overtime over Sweden, 105-98 on Feb. 28.

Group D: Germany’s had a drop-off post -Dirk Nowitzki, who led them to a bronze medal in the 2002 World Cup. They did qualify in 2019 after missing in 2014, but finished in 18th and missed the knockout stage. Still, they’re No. 11 in the world and are 3-1 in first place despite only a +8 point differential, squeezing out wins over Poland, Israel and Estonia. Poland is 1-3 and alone in last place, and after finishing eighth in the last World Cup they’ll have to close with force this summer in match-ups against Israel and Germany.

Group E: Less than a year removed from an Olympic silver medal, and less than three from a second consecutive World Cup bronze, France is 4-0 to the surprise of no one. Montenegro and Hungary, each at 2-2, will likely be able to hold-off 0-4 Portugal, who has lost their games by a combined 71 points. Hungary has never made a World Cup before, and Montenegro’s first appearance came in 2019, finishing 25th out of 32 teams.

Group F: Lithuania, at 4-0, will win the group due to their two victories over Bosnia last week, who is 2-2 and in second place. Bulgaria is 1-3 as is Czech Republic who, like Poland, stunned fans with a sixth place finish in the 2019 World Cup — they are struggling now in qualifiers. Czech Republic has only beaten Bulgaria, 83-80, in their home turf of Pardubice. They’ll play Bosnia and Czech Republic in July, further adding to the prospect of them not being able to repeat their 2019 showing, which was their World Cup debut.

Group G: So, Ukraine is in this group, let’s start there. They did play on Feb. 24, losing 88-74 to Spain, but saw their Feb. 27 rematch postponed due to Russia’s invasion on their land. As of now, they’ll likely make that game up in July, which isn’t even secondary due to them literally fighting for their lives as you’re reading this. More on that fallout in Group H.

As far as the basketball goes, Georgia has advanced and is 3-1, though Spain hasn’t, even at 3-0, they will because … they’re Spain and this is basketball. Georgia, whose only loss was 89-61 to Spain in November, has never qualified for a World Cup. Ukraine is 1-2, with a win over North Macedonia from November. North Macedonia is 0-4 and in last place.

Group H: Russia is 3-0, but because their president is buggin' out and trying to invade Ukraine, killing civilians and evidently forming a misguided partnership with Belarus in the process, they’re suspended until further notice. They had defeated the Netherlands 80-69 on Feb. 24, and were slated to face them again on the 27th, which was canceled due to their invasion attempt. As of now, they’re scheduled to play Italy and Iceland in July, but ain’t no telling what could happen between now and then.

The women’s basketball World Cup, which is scheduled to take place this year from September through October, will be held in Australia. Russia was the other finalist to host the women’s World Cup, and now, they’re expelled from the 2022 Cup entirely due to their actions against Ukraine. Something to monitor as this progresses, obviously — albeit less so from a basketball standpoint.

Otherwise, Italy and Iceland are each 2-2, and the Netherlands sits at 0-3. If Russia gets disqualified, they’d all move on, and it feels like that may eventually happen given the direction we’re going.

MORE INFO ON THE EUROPEAN REGION

The third window, which will end Round 1, will take place beginning in late June and into early July.

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