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Nigeria, Iran qualify for Olympics as best continental sides at World Cup
GUANGZHOU/BEIJING (China) - Nigeria and Iran have booked their slots to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after wins over hosts China 83-76 and Philippines 95-75 respectively to confirm their places as the best ranked teams in Africa and Asia in that order on Sunday at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
This will be Nigeria's third consecutive Olympics appearance after they made their debut at the London 2012 Olympics before returning to the big stage at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the reigning African champions and finishing 11th.
Their celebrations at the end of the game were not just about winning for pride but also that they will not have to go through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year, taking the direct route to Tokyo 2020.
After the win, Nigeria's Farouq Al Aminu reflected on the achievement, "I remember when I joined the team in 2012, we said we did not want to miss an Olympics. It is a beautiful feeling. It is amazing."
Meanwhile, Iran return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008 in Beijing after missing out on two past events. To say that they are buzzing with this achievement is to make an understatement.
Two veterans including dependable center Hamed Haddadi and Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami are the only two surviving members from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing that have played a role in this qualification.
Iran will make their third appearance at the Olympics
This brings the number of qualified teams to four so far after Australia made it as the best Oceania side at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 while Japan have an automatic place as the hosts of the Olympics next year.
The two top ranked national teams from the Americas and Europe will also qualify directly for next year's tournament while the remaining four spots in the men's basketball event at the Olympics will be filled by the four winners of next year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which will feature six teams each.
Teams can qualify for the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments via the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Additionally, two teams from each region - Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe - will be awarded places in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament according to the FIBA World Ranking presented by NIKE.