MANILA – The United States will be hoping to stay on track for a record sixth world title when they face Italy in the quarter-finals as the Basketball World Cup enters the knockout stage on Tuesday.
The tournament has been full of surprises with debutants enjoying upset victories and many expected title contenders, including defending champions Spain, going home early.
The U.S., the highest-ranked team left, are determined to start faster and be more aggressive having suffered their first loss at this tournament by 110-104 to Lithuania in a quarter-final seeding game on Sunday.
“There’s no more coming out slow, or having stretches in the game where we’re not playing as hard as we possibly could,” Team USA guard Austin Reaves, who draws the loudest cheers from Philippine fans, said on Monday ahead of a practice session.
Unbeaten Lithuania square off with Serbia also on Tuesday and are ready for battle after their shock win over the U.S..
“The real game is going to start right now. We cannot think that we’ve achieved something,” Lithuania centre Donatas Motiejunas told reporters on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Germany play Latvia and Canada meet Slovenia.
Canada punched their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics, their first since 2000, after dethroning Spain with a thrilling 88-85 victory in Jakarta on Sunday.
The final four teams in the 2019 edition – Spain, France, Australia and Argentina – are all absent from the knockout stage, while early favourites Australia, France and Greece suffered disappointing early exits.
South Sudan, which gained independence only 12 years ago, booked a ticket to their first Summer Olympics as the best-placed team from Africa with three wins in five matches despite being the second-lowest ranked team in the 32-nation tournament.
However, African and Asian teams struggled against their European and American counterparts and bowed out at the group stage, mirroring the results from the 2019 competition.
The 19th edition of FIBA’s flagship event is being co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. The champions will be crowned in Manila on Sunday.
Basketball-obsessed Philippines won their final classification game against China 96-75 and avoided being the first winless hosts since Colombia in 1982.
A record crowd of 38,115 watched the Philippines’ opening game against the Dominican Republic on Aug. 25 in the world’s largest indoor arena north of the capital Manila.
That beat the previous record of 32,616 who watched the U.S.-Russia final at the 1994 World Cup in Toronto, Canada.
“It’s been a great tournament, it’s been a great World Cup,” Grant Hill, managing director of the U.S. team told reporters. “There have been upsets. It’s setting up to be a pretty exciting finish here.” REUTERS
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