The final round of the first stage is taking place today. Seven spots are still available for the round of sixteen. Nevertheless, the final standing are yet to be decided, with the exceptions of Spain and USA, which will top their groups, and Brazil, which will finish second of group A, no matter what happens today.
Brazil destroyed Egypt 128-65 after a first quarter in which they got a 27-point lead. 6 Brazilian players scored at least 12 points. Among them, Barbosa was the best with 22. Elgammal said goodbye to the championship being the best in Egypt once again with 16 points. This result does not change anything in Group A, since Brazil will finish second anyway.
France got their ticket in the last match against Iran, winning 76-81 though it was harder than expected. Bahrami and Haddadi combined to score 45 points to make thing harder, but France played as a team, with Heurtel, Diaw, Lauvergne and Fournier (finally) leading the squad. It was just a matter of stamina: after so many games in a week, up to 10 French players played at least around 15 minutes today, while Iranians relied on their starting five for the most of the game.
Spain had no mercy of Serbia and won 73-89. The home team already won by 19 by the end of the first half. Pau and Marc Gasol scored 20 and 11 points each. Navarro finished with 15 points in just 19 minutes. For Serbia, Bjelica went for a double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds), but 18 turnovers against Spain are too many if you want to have a chance against this super-team.
Philippines one more time pushed to their limits to win the first match in this World Cup. Their last chance was against Senegal, which played to avoid facing Brazil in the round of sixteen. As usual, the Asian team got a nice advantage, 13 points by the end of the first half. But once again they did not manage the score properly and Senegal came back just in time to send the match into an overtime. But the match had a happy ending for Philippines, which deserved at least a win after so many matches lost by just a few points. The final score was 79-81. Faye scored 20 points for Senegal, while Blatche, Fajardo and Alapag managed to score in double digits for Philippines. Funnily enough, when it was more difficult than ever against the Senegalese towers, the Filipino’s game in the paint was at its best.
Croatia got the last ticket in Group B by defeating Puerto Rico 103-82. The European side was simply stronger. They had a nice day from behind the arc, and they moved the ball much better than they did yesterday against Greece. You could feel that Puerto Rico was more worried about the referees than about their own game. Bare had scored 31 points by the end of the third quarter, but he cannot win the game alone. He needs Balkman too, but Balkman did not show up. In the end, Arroyo’s injury proved to be too much for Puerto Rico. On the other hand, Croatia found themselves on time to face the knock-out rounds with confidence.
Argentina and Greece played an exciting game in Seville. Greece won 71-79 showing how strong they are as a team. So many possibilities on offense and a hard defense. The Greeks players are so committed that it is hard not to consider them as a suitable candidate to be in semifinals late next week. Argentina could do nothing more. The support of their fans filling the stands of San Pablo Arena was not enough. Calathes scored 18 points while Scola could barely score 17 points, 14 of them in the first half.
Finland said goodbye to the World Cup after losing against New Zealand 65-67. In a do-or-die game for both teams, it was the more experienced All Blacks who finally had to advance to the next round, after the defeat of Ukraine against USA. After being 10 points behind, a horrible last quarter by New Zealand allowed Finland to keep dreaming, but Koponen missed a couple of key shoots. Fotu scored 18 points for New Zealand while Lee was the best in Finland with 17 points.
USA defeated Ukraine 71-95, in spite of the good match performed by the Europeans. The NBA squad is like driving a Ferrari: you just need to accelerate for a while to surpass everybody around you. It is that easy for them. So far nobody could make sweat. Maybe Turkey, and the still managed to win by 2o+. Let’s see how the play in the next rounds. Ukraine said goodbye in a strange championship for them. They played well, they competed but they are out.
Turkey had no problems with Dominican Republic, winning 77-64. The finish off the game in the second quarter when Turkish got a 18 points lead. Savas scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, well supported by Asik with 9 and 10. García was the best player for Dominican Republic with 18 points.
Moreira played the game of his life with 38 points and 15 rebounds to give Angola a key win to qualify for the next round. The African side beat Australia 83-91, overcoming a 13-point gap in the second half. In spite of this, they have to wait for South Korea to beat Mexico in order for them to advance to the next stage. Australia was already qualified, regardless of whether or not they won Angola, but they will have to wait for the result of the Slovenia-Lithuania clash to know their placing.
The Mexican dream came true and they will be in the next round of sixteen, after a very serious game against South Korea, which finished 71-87. Mexico always controlled the game, with Hernández replacing Ayón as the key guy. He scored 16 points and collected 11 rebounds. South Korea could not do much against the Mexican intensity, which allowed them to grab 44 rebounds compared to only 11 by the Asian team. This gave Mexico a lot more chance to score, and they took advantage of it.
The match to decide the leader of Group D between Lithuania and Slovenia was a real thriller and had an epic ending. After dominating the score during the whole match, Slovenians only managed to score 2 points in the last quarter. Lithuania scored 12, enough to overcome the gap and get a valuable first place in Group D, thus avoiding USA until semi-finals. The final score was 67-64. Valanciunas scored 12 points while Lorbek netted 14 for Slovenia. Goran Dragic had a bad evening, hitting only 5/14.
Round of Sixteen
Sat 6 September
USA – Mexico
Croatia – France
Slovenia – Dominican Republic
Spain – Senegal
Sun 7 September
Lithuania – New Zealand
Serbia – Greece
Turkey – Australia
Brazil – Argentina