The Games Have Begun! Highlighting Group G in this year’s edition of the FIBA World Cup, the flagship event of FIBA, is Brazil, Cote D’Ivoire, Iran, and Spain.
Here’s everything you need to know, continuing with Group G:
🇧🇷Brazil (FIBA Rank: 13)
How They Got Here: If there’s anyone to bet on to become a future powerhouse basketball country, it’s definitely Brazil. Over the past decade or so, Brazil has developed it’s basketball game to another level, and has become a serious dark horse, that has the potential to beat even the best. They’ve already proven they can do so, defeating the United States in February to clinch a World Cup spot, and earlier this month beating Australia in a tuneup game.
The Guy: There is no doubt that Brazil’s leader is Bruno Caboclo. He was their leading scorer in the qualifiers, and now again in the World Cup, where he continues to average over 15 points per game on an insanely efficient 62% shooting from the field. Caboclo didn’t exactly live up to his NBA hopes, but he is definitely doing his job for his country, and may just lead them their fourth top-16 finish in a row.
X-Factor: With Caboclo manning the frontcourt, a solid backcourt is what makes Brazil’s team particularly strong this time around. The duo of veteran Raul Neto and young buck Yago Santos was one of the strongest heading into the tournament; but in a tragic turn of events, Neto suffered a knee injury in their opener versus Iran that will keep him out the rest of the World Cup. Still, Santos has delivered so far, scoring 14 in each of their two games, and shooting lights-out from 3-point range (57.1%).
With Neto out, longtime point guard and assist machine Marcelinho Huertas has been serviceable, even at the age of 40, and even reached the 1000-assist milestone his last game.
🇨🇮Cote D’Ivoire (FIBA Rank: 42)
How They Got Here: Cote D’Ivoire looked great leading up to the World Cup: they finished first in their group in the African Qualifiers behind a balanced mix of efficient offense and defense, and were runners-up in AfroBasket in 2021. The Elephants have long been dominant on the African stage, but hope to up their game and avoid finishing in the bottom third of the World Cup for a fourth time.
The Guy: Vafessa Fofana is the leader of this team, plain and simple. Fofana has been an extremely committed member to head coach Natxo Lezkano, playing in every game of the 2019 World Cup, and starting all 12 games of the qualifiers (the only member to do so) before their entrance to this years world stage. Fofana’s experience is what makes him integral to team success: his importance lies beyond just scoring.
X-Factor: At the end of the day, though, the Ivory Coast still needs scoring to be their best selves. The young guys have helped with that a lot so far: the two shooting guards, Nisre Zouzoua and Maxence Dadiet, are the biggest candidates to go on a tear for the Elephants in any given game. Zouzoua was the top scorer against Iran with 17, and Dadiet was their leading scorer in qualifiers (12.1 points), and has been great from three-point land, shooting 40% in his two matches. The two of them are really the difference-makers in deciding Cote D’Ivoire’s fate in this year’s WC.
🇮🇷Iran (FIBA Rank: 22)
How They Got Here: Iran is making their fourth overall appearance in the World Cup this year, with all four coming in the last 4 consecutive tournaments. Iran just squeaked by in the Asian Qualifiers, barely beating out Kazakhstan to qualify.
The Guy: Iran is very top heavy in terms of talent, with their older players mainly carrying the load: the current face of Iranian basketball, Hamed Haddadi, has continued his dominance on Team Iran, this year being the top rebounder, third highest scorer, and most efficient overall player so far despite being 38 years of age. With him is Behnam Yakhchali, who has served as Iran’s leading scorer, both during qualifiers (19.1 ppg) and in the group stage (13.0).
X-Factor: Despite the relatively experienced roster Iran has, newcomer Mohammad Amini is making headlines as the next one up. During their exhibition matches, he showed his prowess as a scorer, leading Iran in scoring in back-to-back games, including a 29-point explosion. Even if not this year, the AS Monaco forward is definitely the future.
🇪🇸Spain (FIBA Rank: 1)
How They Got Here: It was absolutely no surprise to anyone when Spain officially qualified for the tournament. Even without a full roster, they were coasting against their European competition, and looked ready for action in Jakarta.
The Guy: To many new fans’ surprise, Spain doesn’t really have a “superstar athlete” on their team: what makes them so good is their team chemistry, and terrific play-calling by coach Sergio Scarolio. Still, Willy Hernangomez has been on a tear in his showings since the Spaniards began playing in early August. He was unstoppable in their opener versus Cote D’Ivoire, scoring 22 on 12 shots, and grabbing five rebounds, too.
Willy Hernangomez was too much to handle dropping 22 PTS on 75%FG, as the reigning World Cup Champs start off their campaign with a comfortable win! 🇪🇸#FIBAWC x #InspireGreatness pic.twitter.com/F8j7mVWxrB— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) August 26, 2023
X-Factor: The best part about Spain, though, is that if Hernangomez had an off-night, and couldn’t score, there would be no issues for La Furia Roja, because someone else would be bound to step up. Thus far, the do-it-all guy for Team Spain is 19 year-old point guard Juan Nunez, who, with more minutes, could easily achieve a triple-double. Nunez has put up 8.0/6.0/6.5 statistical splits on 56% shooting.
With Nunez at the helm, Spain isn’t only a championship contender now; they will be for a long time.
- Cote D’Ivoire
Spain’s experience, talent, chemistry, and overall dominance of nearly every team they face will overwhelm every one of their opponents in the group, especially this early on in the tournament, with most teams still getting loose. The main distinguishing factor among the remaining three teams is really just talent: and, in this case, Brazil has the most of it. Cote D’Ivoire and Iran are still sure to put up respectable efforts, but this early on and against these opponents, they won’t be able to consistently keep up.
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