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Why Cameroon can't wait for last window of World Cup Qualifiers
REIMS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - The upcoming sixth and final window of FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers has become the main talking point for Cameroon's basketball family.
And although the Indomitable Lions won't be taking part at next month's second leg of Group F that will see hosts Senegal, Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAF), Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda and Mali compete to determine Africa's last two spots for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, Cameroon can't wait for its outcome as it could draw a game-changer to basketball in the country.
"PLAYING IN THE WORLD STAGE IS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY, AND IF WE ARE ABLE TO DO SO, WE WILL TRY TO MAKE OUR PEOPLE PROUD AND FIGHT EVERY GAME TO SHOW THAT WE CAN COMPETE AT SUCH HIGH LEVEL"
After beating Egypt last month, Cameroon (7-5) finished in third place of Group E with 19 points, which might be good enough to ensure them the best third-placed team in the African Qualifiers, and a lifetime opportunity of reaching their first World Cup.
However, with Nigeria already qualified, and Senegal sitting on a strong position of securing a place at China 2019, Cote d'Ivoire and/or CAF could spoil Cameroon's World Cup aspirations.
Cote d'Ivoire would secure a spot in the World Cup as the second-placed team in Group F if they win their last three games and Senegal lose their last three games.
They can also qualify as the best-ranked third-placed team if they win their last three games with a combined margin of at least 65 or 66 points, depending on the number of goals scored (65 if they score over 294 points, 66 points if they score under 294).
On the other hand, CAF can only secure a spot in the World Cup as the best-ranked third-placed team and only 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).
"I can’t wait to be watching those games in February from my TV", Cameroon point guard Gedeon Pitard revealed in an interview with FIBA.basketball.
He continued: "I know it is hard to wait and to see the results of the other teams, but as I said to my teammates since: "We aren’t qualified yet, so we have to be patient and remain calm. I will be completely relieved when I will see the news on Internet about us having our spot for China 2019."
Pitard, who plays for Chalons-Reims in France's PRO A, stressed the importance of reaching the World Cup: "That would be probably the best moment in the history of men’s basketball in my country. Playing in the world stage is a unique opportunity, and if we are able to do so, we will try to make our people proud and fight every game to show that we can compete at such hight level.
"That would be an amazing opportunity to show that Cameroon can produce players and build a competitive national team. The excitement and the motivation is there, we just need to wait until we get our spot for China 2019 after the games in February."
But, where did Cameroon, who entered their last window of the qualifiers with their backs against the wall, get so much vitality to turn things around and put themselves on the verge of a historical moment?
"It was multiple factors that made us win that game [against Egypt]. Firstly, we were very motivated and we didn’t want to have any regrets, so we played with our hearts and we did pretty well. Secondly, the coach spoke to us and found the right words to give another boost to our energy and confidence. That was very important because we also talked between all the players and we wanted to beat Egypt more than anything else. We stepped on the court like lions, and we won it."
The 29-year-old guard is already contemplating high and bold goals for the China 2019 showdown. If things go according to play, Pitard says, "We will have a very competitive team that wouldn’t go to China for tourism, but to compete and show what our talented team is capable of."
Some of the talents that Pitard thinks of includes a number of foreign-based players such as the NBA trio of Pascal Siakam, Luc Mbah a Moute and Joel Embiid.
"Adding more talents to the team is something that every national team is looking for. Luc has already played with the senior national team and Joel and Pascal are very talented players so yes, having them with us next summer would be so good."