With the 2019 Basketball World Cup coming to an end three days ago, here are the winners and the disappointments of the competition.
Spain and Argentina: Both teams started the tournament as the underdogs, but exceeded the expectations.
The Spaniards defied the odds and won the title for the second time in their history and first since 2006. They did so by remaining undefeated and playing excellent basketball in almost every game.
Spain proved once again that is one of the biggest powerhouses in international basketball and they enter the 2020 Olympic Games as one of the favourites to go all the way.
Take into account that star players, like Sergio Rodriguez, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic will most likely compete in Tokyo (they all skipped the World Cup).
For their part, the Argentinians were the pleasant surprise of the tournament. Playing in an up tempo playing style, they dominated almost all their opponents, but came up short in the Final.
The duo of Facundo Campazzo and Luis Scola was unstoppable, while Gabriel Deck and Nicolas Laprovittola also played at very high standards (especially the former).
Australia and France: The two teams fought for the third place and the bronze medal, with the French earning the victory and claiming their fifth medal in the last six international competitions (the Olympic Games excluded).
Given that both teams were expected to fight for the classification places (5-8), their run is undoubtedly successful, since they both advanced to the semi-finals.
Czech Republic and Poland: The fact that both teams made it to the Quarter-finals speaks for itself. They were the pleasant surprises of the competition and especially the Czechs played very well in almost all their games.
Serbia and Team USA: They were both considered the grand favourites for the title. Therefore, their failure to reach the Final (or even the semi-finals) is the biggest upset of the Basketball World Cup. No doubt about it.
The Serbians had one of the best and most talented rosters of their entire history. However, their loss to Spain forced them to play against Argentina.
Consequently, they were dominated by Scola and company and finished fifth, after beating Team USA and the Czech Republic in the classification games.
For their part, the Americans saw almost all the top NBA stars skip the competition. As a result, their roster was not the best possible.
However, they played mediocre for almost the whole tournament and France exposed all their flaws on the court.
Consequently, they claimed the seventh place and will be looking for redemption next summer in Tokyo, being locked in to win the gold medal (as Donovan Mitchell said).
Greece: When the MVP of the NBA is incuded in your roster, then the expectations are high. However, the Greeks never found a way to exploit the talent and dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
They were eliminated in the Round of 16 and finished 11th. Probably, the best place they could have earned.
Nigeria: They were presented as Africa’s biggest chance to make it to the Quarter-finals. A talented and deep roster, while they did not face any of the top teams (aside from Argentina).
Yet, they were eliminated from the first round and only managed to secure their spot in the 2020 Olympic Games as the best African team of the Basketball World Cup.
The competition itself: The 2019 Basketball World Cup did not exceed the expectations, despite the effort of FIBA to promote it as much as it could.
It was an exhausting tournament for the players, who had to travel from one city to another to play their games, also being forced to cancel their training sessions after game days.
The head coach of Serbia, Sasha Djordjevic, was critical of the system, while many other players and coaches expressed the same point of view.
Furthermore, the majority of the media that covered the event had to deal with issues regarding their visas, accreditation and internet.
In many basketball courts, there was limited or no access to the internet, while outside the arena there was no internet access at all, due to the restrictions of Chinese Law.
The situation improved in the final weekend of the World Cup at Beijing, where there was stable and secure internet connection, (at least) in the media working room.
Collectively, I believe it was an average tournament, not only for the players and teams, but for the media, too.
The sole positive thing was the series of competitive games that basketball fans watched, especially from the Round of 16 onwards.
And, most importantly, both Spain and Argentina deserved their place in the Final, being the 2019 Basketball World Cup’s best national teams.
*TalkBasket.net and Yiannis Bouranis were at the Cadillac Arena of Beijing and covered all the action of the 2019 Basketball World Cup from the media working room and the media tribune.
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