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''It will be historical to make it to the World Cup,'' says Cameroon's Benoit Mbala
LUANDA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Cameroon have never been so close to reaching the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
After winning seven of their twelve games, Cameroon closed their Group E FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers campaign in third-place, behind Tunisia and Angola.
HELPING MY NATIONAL TEAM TO BE IN THIS POSITION IS REALLY MOTIVATING AND IT SHOWS THAT WITH MORE WORK AND DEDICATION WE CAN DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE
However, the question that will remain unanswered for a couple of months is whether or not their 19 points will be enough to secure them the best third-place from across Groups and E and F that would see them through to the Final Round of FIBA's flagship tournament in China.
For Benoit Mbala, the man who led Cameroon in scoring in the World Cup Qualifiers with averages of 14 points in nine games, history is about to happen for his country.
In the last window of the World Cup Qualifiers in February 2019, Cote d'Ivoire and Central African Republic, who currently share Group F's third place with 13 points apiece, will enter the race for the best third-place in the African Qualifiers.
"We will be following every game and we already started thinking about all the possible outcomes," the 6ft7in (2.01m) small forward explained to FIBA.basketball.
"It will be historical to make it to the World Cup for our first time after failing short so many times," Mbala added.
Described as one of the most talented basketball country on the continent of Africa, Cameroon have never played at a major world event although they fell short in 2008 after losing two of their FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Puerto Rico and Croatia.
"It is a big step for us and chance to make history for Cameroon," the 23-year-old insisted. "Now we have to be patient and hope things will go our way until the last World Cup Qualifier window."
In an earlier interview he said: "[Qualify for the World Cup] will show the world that we are not only known for soccer but also for basketball. It will be a very strong statement for us and I think we will be taken more seriously."
But how Cameroon fought back to be a in strong position of making history is something that came from players and coaching staff's desire of putting Cameroon on international map.
Talking about their last three games last week in Luanda, Mbala said: "The first game [against Angola] I will say was the toughest one. Playing against the host country and losing the game at the last two or three minutes of the game was tough. But we had a goal in mind and we knew it was not over for us yet, so we kept our same mind of winning every other single games remaining."
In a must-win clash against Egypt, Cameroon needed to win by four points or more, and they rose to the occasion, outscoring the Pharaohs 80-60 to keep their World Cup aspirations alive.
If either Cote d'Ivoire or Central African Republic concede one game each, it will be party time in the streets of Yaounde.
And for Mbala, who is currently a free agent, China 2019 would be one of his childhood dreams.
"Playing for my national is a blessing and an honor for me. Helping the team to be in this position it is, is really motivating and it shows that with more work and dedication we can do better in the future."