Follow the World Cup on Facebook
El Mabrouk confident Tunisia can be the surprise package of China 2019
TOULOUSE (France) - Tunisia shooting guard Mourad El Mabrouk is warning opponents not to underestimate the African side at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China later this month.
For the North Africans, it will be their first World Cup appearance since 2010 , and their return could hardly be any more challenging, as they are set to play their Group C campaign in Guangzhou against the likes of Spain, Iran and Puerto Rico.
"WE WANT TO GO TO THE SECOND ROUND... WE ONLY HAVE THAT IN MIND. WE KNOW WE HAVE THE POTENTIAL, THE EXPERIENCE TO WIN GAMES."
When it comes to analyzing Tunisia's world competition records - a 0-5 mark nine years ago at the 2010 World Cup in Turkey, followed by a similar outcome at the 2012 London Olympics - opponents might misjudge the reigning African champions; at least that's the opinion of El Mabrouk.
"We are going to play against all those three teams as if it were the Finals, because we've done so much to be in China and we want to go far into the tournament," he said to FIBA.basketball.
"We aren't coming only to play and showcase Tunisia's talents, but we are here to win games. That is the spirit, the mindset we have had for many years and that is never going to change."
Left out from Tunisia's 2010 World Cup squad, Mourad worked hard to become one of Tunisia's most efficient players in recent years.
So much so, that the 33-year-old hasn't missed a major international tournament since 2011. He has become a prolific three-point shooter, and he can't wait to energize his team in China.
"Everybody knows what I can do, what I can bring on the court, that I can score, that I will put energy on defense and that I have experience. I am confident about my game, and I feel like I have always been working hard to be the best player I can be. I love the game, I love playing for the national team, I love helping the guys and make my fellow compatriots proud," El Mabrouk continued.
What does he make of Tunisia's Group C opponents?
"We will play against Spain in the first game of the tournament, so it's going to be a very good test for us," he replied. "Iran and Puerto Rico are good teams too, and we will have to fight against them for the second spot in order to go to the next round. We want to make our people proud and make them feel that we gave and did everything to go to the next round."
In order to advance to the Second Round of the first-ever 32-nation FIBA Basketball World Cup, El Mabrouk and Co. need to finish in the first two places of their group.
"WE WANT TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF AFRICA AND THAT WE CAN PLAY AGAINST THE MOST COMPETITIVE TEAMS IN THE WORLD."
Yet, the 1.89m (6ft 1in) shooting guard who last played for Tunisian outfit Etoile Sportive de Rades, remains adamant that his country could be one of the surprise packages in China.
"We want to go to the Second Round. We have only that in mind," El Mabrouk looked ahead. "We know we have the potential, the experience to win games in the First Round and spend more than a week in the tournament in China.
"We have been working for this for so long, we want to take Tunisian basketball to another level and show the world that we are the champions of Africa and that we can play against the most competitive teams in the world."
Moraud El Mabrouk averaged 9.4 points in 12 African Qualifiers games
As Tunisia continue their World Cup preparations across Europe - they lost to Turkey and France in Toulouse earlier this week, and will play Poland, Czech Republic and Jordan in Prague this coming weekend - El Mabrouk reiterates their objectives.
"The first goal is to go to the Second Round and try to be the best team in Africa in order to qualify for the Olympics," he stressed.