Basketball’s 2019 World Cup In China
The FIBA Basketball World Cup tournament is now little more than a month away, and a record group of 32 nations are set to battle it out for the 2019 world title. But the interest goes beyond simply who will be the world champions. As they compete in eight cities across China, these teams will also be looking to secure one of seven Olympic qualification places for the finals in Tokyo 2020. For basketball fans, that means there will be important matches on every day – a fact which is sure to see a real surge in basketball online betting too.
But who are the favourites? That’s a tough question because the way the sport works doesn’t always guarantee that teams can always call upon their best players. Nevertheless, as winners of the previous two world cups, the USA is sure to fancy going for a third consecutive crown. And with the two strongest European teams automatically qualifying for Tokyo 2020, the Serbians – who were runners up to the USA in the last Madrid final – will have to be right on their game if they are to survive the challenge which is sure to come from nations like Spain, France and Lithuania. So have no doubts, this part of the draw is certainly set to be a tough competition within a competition. And you can bet there will be similar confrontations in other regions too, especially among the Asian teams.
Event venues and format
The World Cup format gives us eight cities, in five Chinese provinces, ready to host matches in what will be the biggest FIBA World Cup to date. So, over a period of 16 days, there will be a total of 92 basketball games played. At the group stages, the teams will divide into eight groups (A-H), each comprising four teams. Each group will be based in one city venue: China, for example, is in Beijing, where they will play against Côte d’Ivoire, Poland and Venezuela. The USA – the hot favourite – will compete against the Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey. Serbia will face Angola, Italy and the Philippines; and Spain’s opponents will be Iran, Puerto Rico and Tunisia.
Within each group, the two top teams will progress to a second round, which will then feature four pools of four teams. From here, the top two in each group will move on to the quarter-finals. Beijing will then become the venue for both the semi-finals and this year’s final, which is scheduled for 15 September.
Gregg Popovich’s US team are going for a hat-trick of world titles. And though they may lack the services of LeBron James and Steph Curry, as well as Kevin Durant through injury, it would be a very brave move to bet against them succeeding yet again. Having included NBA MVP James Harden and Anthony Davis, Popovich still has plenty of big names at his disposal among his 20-man training squad. The word is too that further players could be added, with names mentioned including Zion Williamson and Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors’ NBA Finals hero.
But after just four days’ training at the start of August, Popovich has then got to name his final 12-man squad he plans to use in China on 17 August. Commenting on the tight time-scale, the head coach said: “We are fully aware that we don’t have a lot of time,” before adding: “We spent a lot of time to try and bring the most talented people we possibly could because that’s what it’s going to take to compete in this World Cup.”
Nevertheless, Popovich is fairly confident his players will still be “a team that plays like a team when we get to China”.
Though they lost in Madrid five years ago, Serbia took Olympic silver at Rio 2016 and will surely be once more in the hunt for medals at the FIBA World Cup. It looks as if head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic may well be able to field his strongest squad since taking over back in 2014. Serbian hopes have been given a lift by news of the return of Denver Nuggets’ All-Star centre Nikola Jokic, a player who was listed in this year’s All-NBA First Team. Throughout European qualifying, when they were without their NBA stars, the Serbs have found it a struggle. They had to rely on former LA Clippers guard Milos Teodosic and German-based forward Vladimir Lucic to eventually grab them a place in China, thanks to a win over Israel in their last qualifying game in February. Even so, their humble giant Boban Marjanovic, currently trying to nail down his own selection in the team, said: “… we aren’t afraid of any team. We respect all the teams, but we also know our talent and we’re ambitious.”
Spain is sure to be another very strong team who will be hard to overcome in the world cup. Having relied heavily upon the Gasol brothers may eventually turn out to be a mixed blessing for the Spanish team. Both Gasols were a vital part of the team which triumphed in the Japan 2006 World Cup, thumping Greece 70-47 in that final. The team then went on to secure a silver medal at Beijing 2008, and then another at London 2012. And given that they now lie at number two in the world rankings, there are high hopes that they will feature in the medals once more. Only time will tell whether the Gasols have one more final in their legs.