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Road to China 2019 - Can talent and warriors spirit guarantee CAF a World Cup spot?
BANGUI (Central African Republic) - The Central African Republic (CAF) head to this month's qualifiers facing an uphill task to secure one of the two tickets still up for grabs for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
After breaking down and detailing Cameroon's chances to complete Africa's five-team lineup for the World Cup, FIBA.basketball editorial team analyses CAF, a country that keeps fighting to restore their glory days on the African continent basketball scene.
In the Ivorian city of Abidjan, CAF will face Mali, Rwanda and Nigeria from February 22-24.
Up until now, CAF's qualifiers campaign has been marked by faced ups and downs.
Yet, the Central Africans share Group F's third place with Cote d'Ivoire with 13 points (4-5) apiece.
Unexpected defeats to Mozambique and Mali earlier in qualifiers, have left CAF in an emergency alert, however, beating their most direct rivals Cote d'Ivoire twice has given them hope.
In order to qualify for their first FIBA Basketball World Cup since 1974, the 'Fauves' can only finish as the best third-placed from across groups E and F.
And it would only happen if they win their last three games by a combined margin of at least 119 or 120 points, depending on the number of goals scored (119 if they score over 267 points and a margin of 120 points if they score under 267 points).
Central African Republic at the World Cup
Bernabe Sanga (CAF) is seen during a FIBA Basketball World Cup 1974 against Mexico
It's been over four decades since CAF last featured at the World Cup.
As the African champions, CAF represented the continent at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1974 in Puerto Rico, where they lost all seven games against eventual world champions Soviet Union (Russia), Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia) and the Philippines.
An established force to be recognised in the continent, CAF faced a 14-year hiatus to return to a world stage competition. Thanks to their second African title achieved in 1987 in Tunisia, the Central African qualified for the 1988 Seoul Olympics where they beat hosts Korea and fellow African Egypt to claim a 10th-place in the 12-team event.
Key Players: Damachoua, Kouguere and Jefferson
Throughout his nine world cup qualifiers games Destin Damachoua remained consistently good, putting up big numbers, leading CAF's offense, and more importantly, he delivered his skills when his team needed him most.
With a team-high average of almost 16 points per game, the 1.87m (6ft) point guard has been the man CAF will need to try and overcome a number of hurdles in Abidjan.
Arguably one of his most convincing displays came in a 70-65 defeat against Senegal in the First Round where Damachoua - in spite of missing 5 of his 6 three-point attempts went on to lead all scorers with 20 points.
Backing the 32-year-old guard are all-around small forward Max Kouguere, and duo of Johndre Jefferson and Jimmy Djimrabaye, who make the core of the team.
Expert Opinion (Julio Chitunda)
I will sound a bit repetitive when it comes to analysing Group F's candidates for the spots for the World Cup. But in all fairness, CAF will need to be better than they have been so far to win three games and combine a margin of at least 119 or 120 points.
I don't see that happening, especially because they face Nigeria - the most solid and consistent team in the entire African qualifiers process.
However, as they say, basketball sometimes surprise us with unthinkable stuff, and, maybe, just maybe, CAF might be in one of those impressive moments.
They are talented, they always look like warriors ready for the fight, and even though I like CAF a lot, I still believe they put themselves in an impossible position to qualify for China.