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15 Joel Anthony (CAN), 11 Anderson Varejao (BRA)
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Varejao: ''We don't want to have regrets; we want to get our spot for China 2019''

RIO DE JANEIRO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers) – During the fifth window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, Brazil came close to earning the qualification to next year’s World Cup but a 94-67 loss against Canada put a hold on Brazil’s celebration.

Now the Brazilian team will have to wait for the final window of the Qualifiers, where they will visit Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, to see if they can earn a ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.

Anderson Varejao is a proven leader for the Brazilian squad in-and-off the court. Varejao leads the team in efficiency with 17.7 and was the best performer for the team against the Dominican Republic with 12 points and 9 rebounds. FIBA.basketball spoke with Varejao following the conclusion of the fifth window of the Americas Qualifiers, as he looked ahead to the challenges that may arise in February and the importance of Brazil being at China 2019.

Brazil had a tough battle at home against Canada but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to play in front of your home crowd….
It was a very frustrating game for us, and maybe one of the only games in those qualifiers where we got completely dominated by our opponent. Canada played at a very good level, and they came with the goal to seal their spot to China 2019, and they did, as we couldn’t step up our game to try to win this one. It was not a good night for us, and we got disappointed both for the team and for the fans that came to cheer and support us. Losing by almost 30 points in your own soil is very tough and we have to bounce back in the last two games because those are going to be very important. We don’t want to have regrets; we want to get our spot for China 2019 as soon as possible.

The first game of the window against Dominican Republic was pretty good, and Brazil showed some very good sequences in the offensive end. What did you think about this game?
It was a very good game, and the teamwork was so good on both ends of the court. Our shots went in, we shared the ball very well and we had a good game. We wanted to show them that we were here to win that game and show them that it would be tough to beat us at home, and we did a great game from the beginning to the end of it. They had some minutes where they got better, but we were a better team on that game and we really did deserve to win. This kind of game show that we can play at a very good level, and it’s important to play the last two games of the campaign in the same dynamic, doing pretty much what we did against the Dominican Republic in Sao Paulo.

The last two games are going to be in February, away from home, in the Virgin Islands and in the Dominican Republic…
We all wish they were scheduled for next week already (laughs). The goal is not only to qualify, it’s also to win the last two games and finish the campaign with the best record we can. We don’t want to lose any more games, we lost three games already and got frustrated by it, so we don’t want to experience this anymore during this campaign. We know we are very close to qualifying, but we want to reach that goal in the next game if possible and start thinking about the next World Cup when the campaign will be over. It’s a long qualifying campaign, we had some great moments, a few bad ones, and we did show that we deserve to go to China 2019. We have two games to reach that goal; that is very important for the national team.

How important is it for Brazil to qualify for the next FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019?
It’s very, very important for Brazil to be part of the competition next summer in China. We have been having an interesting campaign so far, and we want to be between the World’s finest in Asia next summer, we want to represent Brazil very well in that competition. We have been doing a great job with the national team in the last decade or so, and we want to keep being qualified for every international competition, FIBA World Cup, Olympic games, all of them. To keep being competitive and keep showing that your basketball level is improving, you have to keep playing at this highest level of competition. All of the best players and the best teams in the world are going to be in China next year, and we want to be part of it and compete against all of them.

Brazil played some of their home games in front of big crowds. How do you feel about the massive presence of fans during some of the national team games in the campaign?
I really loved to see people coming to the games and cheering for us. We had some games in the Goiana Arena for example, with more than 10,000 people attending, and it’s so good to see this in Brazil. I love to see that there are more and more people following basketball and being fans of the national team, as we are also here to show people that Brazil is a great country of basketball. This qualifying campaign format is very good because the fans can attend games of the national team during the season and cheer for their favourite player not only during the summer. Basketball has a lot of fans in Brazil and having a national team that is competitive and supported by the fans is very important. They are our sixth man!

You have been playing for the national team for so long now, what do you think about the improvement of the senior national team and Brazilian basketball overall?
I think that we have been improving a lot in the last ten, fifteen years or so. More and more players are available to play for the national team, a lot of guys start playing basketball, so we can see plenty of kids playing with an orange ball in the streets or in different public sports gyms now, which is good for our basketball. I love my sport and to see that more and more people are into it makes me happy and confident for our future. We know that soccer is the biggest sport in here and to see that basketball got more and more people playing and being fans is also very good. About the senior national team, we have been having very good years and have been showing that we are competitive at the highest level. We want more, and we keep working hard to keep Brazil between the best teams of the continent and of the world.

You already played in two editions of FIBA World Cup already, in 2010 and 2014. What do you remember the most from those two experiences?
Those two tournaments were very good experiences for me. The one in Turkey was good, but the one in Spain was a bit better as I lived there for some years and it was good to play in a country that I knew of already. We had a great tournament and we finished at the sixth spot, with only two losses and some very good games including the wins against Serbia and the one against Argentina, which was in my opinion, one of the best games that Brazil’s national team played in an international competition in the last 15 years. We want more now, and we are looking forward to qualifying for China 2019 and try to have a great run in Asia next summer. We will be very motivated for sure!