Five takeaways from the FIBA World Cup quarter-finals

USA's shock defeat to France was the main headline, but what else have we learned from the men's basketball event in China?

By Vassilis Skountis ·

And then there were four.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup in China has been fast and furious, and it delivered the mother of all shocks on Wednesday when France knocked out two-time defending champions the United States.

All seven available qualifying berths for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have now been decided, but there's only one place to start...

Vive la France!

The USA's 58-game winning streak in official competition, stretching back to the 2006 World Cup, is over.

Then they went down 101-95 to Greece in the semi-finals in Saitama, Japan on 1 September 2006.

Now Gregg Popovich's men are licking their wounds after a stunning 89-79 defeat to France, with the United States failing to win a medal in a global competition for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.

Having lost all nine of their previous meetings, 'Les Bleus' pulled off one of the biggest upsets in modern basketball history in Dongguan to end the USA's hopes of an unprecedented 'three-peat'.

Rudy Gobert was the star with 21 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier scored 22 points and new Fenerbahçe signing Nando de Colo had 18 points.

Gobert’s Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell did all he could for the Americans, finishing with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists.

But France are now one win away from bettering the bronze medal they won at the last World Cup in Madrid in 2014 after knocking out the hosts.

And Fournier had a simple message after an epic triumph, "It's not over."

Coach Vincent Collet spoke allegorically after that win five years ago, saying that he had seen the sun of Austerlitz - a great omen for all French from the Napoleonic era.- from his hotel balcony on the morning of the game.

This time, he may have seen the Silk Road… or even better, the Gold Road.

Luis Scola - the spirit of 'El Alma Argentina'

With Slovenia failing to qualify for the World Cup, Luka Doncic has been an interested spectator on television.

And the 20-year-old Dallas Mavericks guard and NBA Rookie of the Year paid due reverence to a man very nearly twice his age in the form of Luis Scola.

Doncic tweeted, "He is incredible," about the only survivor from the 2004 Olympic champion team immortalised in the Olympic Channel film, 'The Golden Generation'.

'El Alma Argentina' - 'The Argentinean soul' - is the nickname of the heroes from the Athens Games, and the centre continues to live up to that tag.

In six World Cup games in China, the old pampa wolf has averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, shooting 49% for two, 40% for three, and 83% from the free-throw line in 28 minutes on the floor.

Seventh months short of his 40th birthday, the 10-year NBA veteran had led his side to the semi-finals of the World Cup and secured automatic qualification for Tokyo 2020.

In 1987, when French football great Michel Platini was asked to explain why he had retired at just 32, he answered: "Because I prefer being asked why I’ve stopped than why I’m still going."

Obviously, Scola can easily answer why he’s still going and will surely make his fifth Olympic Games appearance next year.

Eight Tokyo spots confirmed

With just over 10 months to go before the start of next year's Olympic Games, eight teams have secured their spots in Tokyo.

Seven countries booked their places thanks to their efforts in China and will join hosts Japan in the 12-team tournament.

Australia, Nigeria and Iran clinched the single berths up for grabs in Oceania, Africa and Asia respectively.

Argentina and the United States claimed the two from the Americas with Spain and France coming out on top in Europe.

That means there is merely pride at stake in the fifth-to-eighth classification games taking place in Dongguan and Shanghai on Friday and Beijing on Sunday.

Just four vacancies remain in Tokyo and these will be filled through four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, taking place from 7-12 July 2020.

Luis Scola goes to the rim during Argentina's FIBA World Cup quarter-final win over Serbia

The talented Mr Rubio

"The best is yet to come for him," said Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo of Ricky Rubio recently.

The Phoenix Suns guard is showing those words were not misplaced.

The 29-year-old Catalan led the Roja to victory over Poland and a place in the 2020 Olympic Games tournament.

He also moved to the top of a very special list, overtaking Argentinian legend Pablo Prigioni to become the all-time World Cup assists leader.

Rubio has dished out 115 assists in 22 games compared to Prigioni's 106 in 24 matches.

He was quick to pay tribute to his former opponent saying, "I feel honoured to be mentioned in the same sentence with one of my idols. I have learned a lot playing against him.

Twice a European champion, Rubio will now be hoping to become a world champion.

Australians in the winning habit

Which national team squad boasts the greatest number of NBA champions?

You would be forgiven for thinking the United States but only Harrison Barnes of the 2015 champion Golden State Warriors has an NBA ring.

The honour goes to Australia who have no fewer than four NBA title winners: Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs, 2014), Aron Baynes (San Antonio Spurs, 2014), Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors, 2015), and Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016).

Alongside them plays another NBA star, Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz, who won the Euroleague title in 2014 with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The Boomers defeated surprise package the Czech Republic 82-70 to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time.

Mills starred yet again with 24 points on 3-for-6 two-point and 6-for-9 three-point shooting, to go with his six assists.

The guard, who plays under Gregg Popovich at San Antonio, ranks third in scoring in the tournament with 21.8 points and is a serious contender for the tournament MVP award.

If they beat Spain on Friday, they will claim their first medal in a major global competition.

In 11 previous World Cup appearances, Australia's best finish was fifth in 1982, and they were fourth in the Olympic Games in 1988, 1996, 2000, and 2016.