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China focused on crucial bout vs Puerto Rico with Olympic bid, WC advance on the line

Photo: FIBA

Following another defeat against South Sudan in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Chinese national team head coach Sasha Djordjevic is fully aware of what’s at stake as they are about to face their final first round, Group Phase match.

“We know it. The best people who know it is us, and it’s one of the goals. If we understand it in the right way, it can be a great motivation. It’s just doesn’t have to be a pressure – an extra burden – on us. We just have to go out there and play our best game,” he said in the post-game of their 89-69 Monday loss against South Sudan in Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Upon losing against Serbia at their World Cup debut last week, China is now dipped in the hot waters of FIBA contention as a 0-2 mark is deeply etched on their first-round record.

Team Dragon still holds a slim chance to advance through a three-way tie, but it would require them to overcome Puerto Rico in a massive fashion, with South Sudan falling into Serbia’s hands at the other hand.

As such, one game left against the Puerto Ricans is also the key determinant of China’s Olympic basketball hopes next year in Paris. Japan has already raised the pressure as a frontrunner amongst Asian hopefuls after stunning Finland last Sunday.

The past two horrendous games indeed must be left behind as Djordjevic advocated for his China club to shift their focus against a feisty Puerto Rican squad to conclude their first-round outing.

“First of all Puerto Rico is also a very experienced team – a lot of good ball handlers, a lot of good finishers,” he said.

“We just have to play our best game. I’m sure we’re going to come out and play our best.”

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