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03/12/2018
Julio Chitunda's African Message
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Cameroon on the verge of making history

SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Cameroon were the biggest winners in the fifth window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers held over the weekend in Luanda, Angola.

Even though hosts Angola restored their continental heavyweight status after securing their fifth straight World Cup appearance thanks to victories over African champions Tunisia, Cameroon and Chad, the Cameroonians finally showed their full potential to stay alive in the race for one of the five tickets for African teams for the 32-nation FIBA Basketball World Cup in China. 

Benoit Mbala led Cameroon in scoring with 14 points per game

Cameroon won two of their three games in Luanda and came up stronger than we have seen them play in the entire World Cup Qualifiers process.

They needed to beat Egypt - their closest rival - by four points or more to keep their World Cup hopes alive, but the Cameroonians did it in a remarkable fashion outclassing Egypt 80-60 to finish in third place of Group E with 19 points.

 

Although the Cameroonians aren't qualified for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup just yet, they are on the verge of making history. They've put themselves in a strong position of making their first-ever World Cup appearance. 

However, it all depends on the outcome of Group F due to take place in February 2019.

Without having to face them, Group F's Central African Republic and Cote d'Ivoire are now Cameroon's newest contenders on the road to China.

One of these three countries will secure the best third-placed team from the African Qualifiers to complete the five-team lineup for African teams for the China 2019 showpiece.

Both Cote d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic will need to win their three games, and here's where their challenges begin. Ivoirians and Central African will have to beat Nigeria - the most dominant team in the African Qualifiers so far.

Cote d'Ivoire and Central Africans will go up against Nigeria, Rwanda and Mal in an attempt to deny Cameroon's ticket to China.

 

In the aftermath of Cameroon's victory over Egypt, the team's skipper Jeremy Nzeulie explained what makes them so confident to qualify for FIBA's flagship tournament:  "We are so happy with the win today because we fought hard as a team and we got the victory. We knew that Cameroon is among the top five teams in Africa and we hope that we have done the job to take us to the World Cup next year."

For years, Cameroon tried to feature at a major world stage competition, but they repeatedly failed to materialise their intentions.

Cameroon v Croatia at 2008 FIBA OQT in Athens

Back in 2008, under the tutelage of head coach Lazare Adingono, who returned at the helm of his country's national team last month, Cameroon took part in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, but losses to Croatia and Puerto ended their Beijing Olympics aspirations.

It's been a long ride for the "Indomitable Lions" though.

After a turbulent World Cup Qualifiers campaign, which forced them to part ways with two head coaches namely Brazilian Carlos Barbosa (2-1) and Frenchman Jean Denys Choulet (3-3) in the space of a year, Cameroonians finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Since the start of the African World Cup Qualifiers, it was clear that the top teams on the continent (Nigeria, Tunisia, Angola, Senegal, and Egypt) would make it to China.

Nigeria, Angola, Tunisia are officially qualified, Senegal may follow suit, but now it's down to Cameroon, Central African Republic and Cote d'Ivoire to secure the last spot for the China 2019 showdown.

Julio Chitunda
FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

 

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda, a University of Sheffield alumni and former semi-professional player, has worked for a number of Portuguese media outlets as well as The Press Association and covered international basketball for over a decade. Through his column, he offers an insight into basketball on the world's second biggest continent.