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China have a golden chance at World Cup
The World Cup hosts were drawn into Group A with 2-time AfroBasket champions Côte d'Ivoire, 2015 FIBA Americas champions Venezuela and European side Poland, who are appearing at the World Cup for only the second time.
As hosts, China were already assured of a berth in the World Cup, and they treated the Asian Qualifiers as a platform for consolidating their considerable talent pool and trimming it down to the elite. At the start of the Qualifiers, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) split their pool into the Red and Blue teams, each one coached by a former national player - Du Feng helming China Red and Li Nan steering China Blue.
China looked shaky in their first 6 Qualifiers contests, compiling just 3 wins in 6 games, but they did much better in the last 3 windows, winning 5 of their 6 fixtures to finish with a 7-5 record, which was good enough for 4th place in Group E behind New Zealand, Korea and Jordan.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, China can bring in a pretty strong roster peppered with NBA draft picks and CBA superstars. At the head of the column should be Yi Jianlian, who was picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007 and is a 4-time CBA Most Valuable Player. He should play a major role in a formidable Chinese frontline that may also include 2 other NBA draftees: Zhou Qi formerly of the Houston Rockets and Wang Zhelin, who was chosen by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2016.
China have interesting talent at the perimeter as well, featuring 2-time CBA MVP Ding Yanyuhang and former FIBA Asia Cup All-Star Five membet Guo Ailun. With the country's top players at his disposal, national team head coach Li Nan has the best tools to make a big splash at the World Cup, where China's best finish 8th place half a decade ago at the 1994 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Canada.
China are ranked 30th in the world according to the latest FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike, and they are the 3rd-highest ranked team in their group behind 20th-ranked Venezuela and 25th-ranked Poland while Cote d'Ivoire are 64th in the list.
China's homecourt edge, however, should improve their stock at the World Cup and give them the needed boost to perhaps advance to the second round. Venezuela and Cote d'Ivoire both aren't expected to parade any NBA-caliber players at the World Cup with Poland's Marcin Gortat the only current NBAer expected to make an appearance in their group. This further compounds China's chances of making headway at the biggest event of international basketball.
Of course, it all depends on how well Yi, Zhou, Guo and the rest of their compatriots will play. China have been known to be quite inconsistent, especially when seeing action against teams from outside Asia, but on the flipside, they usually play at a higher level at home. Of all the Asian teams in the World Cup, China have the best chance to make it past the first round, and they would do well not to waste it.
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