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Tunisia's Michael Roll excited about playing at his first World Cup
TEL AVIV (Israel) - Winning a first FIBA Basketball World Cup game and qualifying for next year's Tokyo Olympics have become Tunisia's main priorities in China later this year, according to sharpshooter Michael Roll.
The reigning African champions secured their place at FIBA's flagship competition on the back of a 10-2 record in the region's Qualifiers. However, they're aware that nothing short of excelling will be required if they're to achieve their goals.
Tunisia will play their First Round Group C campaign in Guangzhou against Iran, Puerto Rico and Spain.
"I'M HOPING TO HELP CHANGE THE OUTCOME INTO A MORE POSITIVE ONE AT THIS WORLD CUP."
After registering five losses in as many games and ranking last among the 24 participating teams in their World Cup debut nine years ago in Turkey, the North Africans aren't hiding their intentions of wanting to make some noise in China.
"Spain are the obvious favorites in the group as they're a world power," Roll told FIBA.basketball. "Iran and Puerto Rico are also talented teams so we'll have to play well to be able to beat them."
Ever since he made his senior national team debut for Tunisia at the FIBA AfroBasket 2015, Roll has become a household name.
For the 32-year-old, who plays for Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv, there is a one surefire way to put Tunisia on international basketball's map once and for all: "With such high stakes on the line - qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo - we're focused on doing everything we can to get some wins in China."
The 1.95m (6ft 5in) guard averaged 10.3 points, a team-high 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in the three games of the Qualifiers' fourth window played last September. Tunisia won all three contests to punch their ticket to China 2019.
"We're all very excited to get to work in preparation for the World Cup," he said. "My time with the national team has been filled with a bunch of fun memories. I've enjoyed all my teammates and all of the games we've been able to play. Playing against a bunch of great teams in Africa and Europe already, I'm excited for the upcoming games in China.
"I'm excited to get to the World Cup. I've never played in it before. The group we drew will be exciting to play against, with our goal being to advance from group play. The entire world will be watching on and that's something we have to prepare for."
More than half of the Tunisian team that played at the World Cup in 2010 still remains part of the national side for this year's competition and Roll looks forward to contributing to the cause and making a difference.
"I'm hoping to help change the outcome into a more positive one at this World Cup," he said. "All of the players are more experienced now, have improved immensely and we all play better together on the court. With all of this combined, we're hoping for more wins."
Roll received his first Tunisia call-up under former head coach Adel Tlatli. He hasn't faced any trouble in adjusting to play caller Mario Palmas' game plan.
"The adjustment to Coach Palma was not difficult. He is a very good and experienced coach who knows the game well," he said. "He's able to put me in to great situations on the court and understands the strengths I can provide. With that, I'm able to help everyone else on the court at the same time. He's been great."