24 August, 2021
05 September
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Semi-Finals preview: Cape Verde vs Tunisia; Senegal vs Cote d'Ivoire


KIGALI (Rwanda) - Two former African champions - Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire - defending champions Tunisia, and high-flying Cape Verde are set for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Semi-Finals battle on Saturday at Kigali Arena.

After 31 games into AfroBasket 2021, the 16-nation line-up has been trimmed down to just four national teams, raising the inevitable question: "Which of the four the teams will advance to the Championship Game?"

FIBA.basketball brings you things that you may need to know about these two decisive games.

All four national teams have reached the AfroBasket Semi-Finals at least once over the past five editions (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017) of the tournament, but only two teams - Tunisia and Cote d'Ivoire - reached the Final: Tunisia in 2011 and 2017 and Cote d'Ivoire in 2009.

Four current or former NBA players will be on display in the Semi-Finals.

Senegal's Gorgui Dieng has recently signed for the Atlanta Hawks; Matt Costello had a brief stint with the San Antonio Spurs; Salah Mejri played three seasons for Dallas and Walter Tavares played for Atlanta and Cleveland.


Cape Verde are the only semifinalist to have tasted defeat in the tournament. After beating former African champions Angola in overtime in their Group A opener, Cape Verde came up short against the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In his own words, Cape Verde guard Jeff Xavier admitted that the defeat against Congo was because "Maybe we got a little big-headed after the win against Angola."

Cape Verde reached the Semi-Finals after a 3-1 record while Tunisia cruised to a 4-0. 

The last time these two teams faced each other, Cape Verde came up on top (71-52) in a Group Phase game in the 2009 edition of AfroBasket in Tripoli, Libya. 

Jeff Xavier is seen in action against Tunisia, August 5, 2009, Libya

Back then, Xavier paced his team with a game-high 20 points; Salah Mejri, Mokhtar Ghyaza and Makram Ben Romdhane - who have been superb for Tunisia in Kigali - were in early days of their national team careers, and made little impact in that game although the Tunisians went on to finish third.

Alongside Xavier in Libya were Fidel Mendonca, brothers Ivan and Joel Almeida in a Cape Verde squad that finished 13th in the 16-nation Championship.

Salah Mejri

Fast forward to 2021, and the difference between these two teams, in the Kigali showdown, are relatively small.

Cape Verde head to this Semi-Finals looking to interfere in Tunisia's attempt to defend their crown.

However, Tunisia have never contemplated anything else other than becoming the first team to win back-to-back AfroBasket titles since Angola in 2009.

Former teammates at Real Madrid, Salah Mejri (Tunisia) and Walter 'Edy' Tavares (Cape Verde) - two seven-footer centers - are expected to provide a clash of the titans, such has been their impact in the tournament. "I look forward to the challenge. He is taller than me, but we are similar in some ways," Mejri said.

What do the numbers show about Cape Verde and Tunisia?

Points per game:
Cape Verde (77) vs Tunisia (79)

Points allowed per game:
Cape Verde (72) vs Tunisia (61)

Assists per game:
Cape Verde (20) vs Tunisia (22)

Turn Overs per game:
Cape Verde (22) v Tunisia (17)

Points from the bench per game:
Cape Verde (18) vs Tunisia (20)

Key Matchups:
Walter 'Edy' Tavares vs Salah Mejri
Jeff Xavier vs Michael Roll
Omar Abada vs Joel Almeida

This game might be decided in small details.


Both Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire reached the semis undefeated in four games each, and both teams have been playing solid, attractive and competitive basketball.

Cote d'Ivoire last played in the AfroBasket Semi-Finals in 2009 when they finished second after losing to eventual champions Angola.

The last time Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal faced off, the two sides shared one win apiece during the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers 2019. 

In June 2018, Senegal beat Cote d'Ivoire (66-61) in the Second Round of Group D in Dakar. Four months earlier, in Maputo, Cote d'Ivoire beat Senegal (67-60) in the First Round of the World Cup African Qualifiers 2019

Senegal have made it to the Last Four Round in the last three editions of AfroBasket (2013, 2015 and 2017), but somehow, things haven't worked for the Lions. 

The Senegalese display an experienced squad, they have a coaching team in Boniface Ndong and DeSagana Diop who have played at AfroBasket as recently as 2009; they have a highly-talented new generation led by Brancou Badio and Ibrahima Faye; Gorgui Dieng has done wonders; What could possible go wrong for Senegal? 

The Senegalese will need to overcome a combative Cote d'Ivoire team that hasn't lost an official game on the continent of Africa since September 14, 2018 when they lost to Nigeria (84-73) in Lagosduring the FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers 2019.

Since then, Cote d'Ivoire embarked on a 15-0 winning streak, which includes their last five wins in the World Cup Qualifiers 2019; 6-0 in the AfroBasket Qualifiers 2021, and their last four wins in Kigali.

New addition Matt Costello has become the team's key factor, Vafessa Fofana, Guy Edi and Souleyman have add their African basketball grit, and the sky seems to be the limit for the Ivorians.

What do the numbers show about Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal?

Points per game:
Cote d'Ivoire (88) v Senegal (93)

Points allowed per game:
Cote d'Ivoire (64) v Senegal (67)

Assists per game:
Cote d'Ivoire (25) v Senegal (24)

Turn Overs per game:
Cote d'Ivoire (18) v Senegal (17)

Points from the bench per game:
Cote d'Ivoire (35) v Senegal (37)

Key Matchups:
Matt Costello v Gorgui Dieng
Souleyman Diabate vs Brancou Badio
Vafessa Fofana vs Ibrahima Faye