Five things to know ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarter-finals
We're all set for the quarter-finals at the men's 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The second round came to a close on Monday (9 September), and as well as confirming the line-up for the last eight, it threw up these five things you might have missed.
1) The American bench: Gold, gold, and more gold
Team USA’s coaching team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup could be compared to a vault full of titles, like that of Fort Knox itself.
Head Coach Gregg Popovich won five NBA Championship rings with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014.
He is also one of the longest-serving active coaches in all four major team sports in the United States, having been at Spurs’ helm since 1996.
Alongside him sits Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr, who has amassed eight NBA championship titles: Five as a player of the Chicago Bulls (1996, 1997, and 1998) and the San Antonio Spurs (1999 and 2003), and three more as coach of the Dubs in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Jay Wright meanwhile has won two NCAA Division I Championship titles as Head Coach of the Villanova Wildcats, in 2016 and 2018.
Their unbeaten run to the quarter-finals at this world cup means USA qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. They'll be eyeing more gold next year.
2) From Charlotte to Dongguan
Team USA shattered Brazil’s dreams (89-73) in Shenzhen to extend their perfect record to 5-0, while the final buzzer in Nanjing found Australia beating France 100-98, to also advance unbeaten to the quarter-finals.
The fourth quarter-final’s pairing was also confirmed, with defending Champions USA facing France in Dongguan on Wednesday.
This game will see a reunion for American guard Kemba Walker and French forward Nicolas Batum, who have been teammates for four years at the Charlotte Hornets.
“No, we haven’t exchanged text messages yet,” says a laughing Walker, now with the Boston Celtics.
“We may have a chat tomorrow, but we will certainly talk on the floor. We are both competitive players and fighters, so I can’t wait for us to meet in the quarter-finals.”
3) Α much-anticipated game
The quarter-final between Argentina (5-0) and Serbia (4-1) in Dongguan will see a re-match of one of the most exciting, and controversial basketball games ever.
The two teams locked horns at the 2002 Basketball World Cup final in Indianapolis. That day, Yugoslavia (consisting of players from Serbia and Montenegro) prevailed in overtime, 84-78.
The only player from that game who lines up in tomorrow’s quarter-final will be Argentina’s evergreen centre Luis Scola, who back then had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Key player Vasilije Micić could be absent for Serbia, as his mother sadly passed away.
The two teams also crossed swords again at the 2010 Basketball World Cup in Turkey, where Serbia defeated Argentina 84-82.
Argentina's progress in China has guaranteed them a spot at Tokyo 2020. Could we see a repeat of their famous win over USA at the next Olympic Games?
4) Spain strikes back
Poland were last present in a Basketball World Cup in 1967 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Fifty-two years later the Bialo-Czerwoni return to centre stage. On the back of a 4-1 record, and led by guard Mateusz Ponitka, they will fight for their chance against one of the major gold medal threats, Spain.
Spain (5-0) dominated Serbia, thanks to a superb performance by Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio.
“He’s very special, he’s close to reaching absolute maturity, and the best is yet to come for him,” Sergio Scariolo, Head Coach of La Roja commented.
Spain were crowned World Champions in 2006 in Saitama, Japan, but went on to finish sixth in 2010 in Istanbul and fifth in 2014 in Madrid.
In a total of 18 encounters, Spain and Poland have won an equal amount of matches. The Poles were undefeated until 1972, then the Spaniards responded with a 9-0 run of their own.
5) Czech Republic: The Velvet Revolution!
The Czech Republic team were beaten by Greece in Shenzhen, 84-77, but this was undoubtedly the Czech's sweetest defeat ever.
The Basketball World Cup rookies have not appeared since Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Divorce” dissolution in 1993.
Although the Greeks reached the required 12-point margin three times, the Czechs held firmly and celebrated wildly after the final buzzer.
“We have surprised everybody, including ourselves. We had goals in this tournament, we had secret desires, but to be honest, I didn’t expect us to make the Quarterfinals,” forward Vojtěch Hruban said.
“I hope this will be the beginning of a comeback, or even better a revolution for Czech basketball.”
The Czechs finished second in Group C, and on Wednesday will try to continue working miracles, this time against Australia. The Boomers previously beat France 100-98 win against France.