Dennis Wiedermann
Photo: Dennis Wiedermann

China may seem a long way off yet, but for some, the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 dream starts in Norrkoping, Sweden on Wednesday night.

Come November, there will be World Cup Qualifiers games in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Down Under, too. The Boomers will be in action, as will the Tall Blacks, who famously greet all of their opponents with their traditional war cry, the Haka, before every game.

The world, as we know it, will stop every so often as players in all parts of the globe put on their national team shirts and try to win enough games to clinch spots for FIBA’s flagship event taking place in eight cities across five Chinese provinces from August 31-September 15 2019.

All the fun gets underway this week, though, when the Pre-Qualifiers swing into action. And the very first game will be in a place that some might call a sleepy backwater of Sweden, Norrkoping.

A city by the mouth of the river Motala strom, at Braviken, which is an inlet of the Baltic Sea, Norrkoping’s Stadium Arena will be the venue for for the Basketball World Cup European Pre-Qualifier between the Swedes and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Norrkoping is famous for a lot of reasons, including some of the people that hail from it.

One was the late Hannes Alfven, a winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics. Another is Pernilla Wiberg, the alpine skier who won her fair share of gold medals at Olympics and World Championships from 1991 to 1998.

But Norrkoping, which is well-known for its old industrial quarter and the waterfalls that provided much of the hydroelectric energy that once fueled the manufacturing sector, also has a strong connection to basketball.

Yes, it is in this city, which has teams playing in both the men’s and women’s top leagues in Sweden, where the road to China 2019 begins.

Sweden, who last featured in a FIBA EuroBasket in 2013, will host a Bosnia and Herzegovina side that is young but talented.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, who played at FIBA EuroBasket 2015 in France, the Slovak Republic, Armenia and Sweden make up the only four-team group in the European Pre-Qualifiers.

The sides will play each other at home and away, with the top two advancing to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers which get underway in November.

The two teams are no strangers to each other, having met last year in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers. In two incredibly tight games, it was the Bosnians, led by Mirza Teletovic and Jusuf Nurkic, prevailing 74-71 and 78-76.

However, with Bosnia and Herzegovina bringing a new-look line-up, Sweden, who interestingly enough are coached by Sarajevo-born Vedran Bosnic, will be backing their chances of going down in the trivia books as winning the first game of the 2019 World Cup cycle.

The other national teams in the Pre-Qualifiers are Albania, Austria and the Netherlands in Group A; Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD) and Estonia in Group C; and in Group D, Portugal, Bulgaria and Belarus.

In all, there will be 30 games in the Pre-Qualifiers.

Also on Wednesday, the Slovak Republic will be in Yerevan to take on Armenia; Portugal will host Bulgaria in Sines; Kosovo will host MKD in Prishtina; and Austria will visit Tirana to take on Albania.

Belarus, the Netherlands and Estonia will open their campaigns on Saturday. When it’s all said and done, 8 of the 13 teams will progress to the World Cup Qualifiers. Let the fun begin.

Article written by FIBA.