Group D Preview: Group of death?
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - The competition will be fierce in Group D of the FIBA Asia Cup 2022. With India, Lebanon, New Zealand, or the Philippines, it’s the only group that doesn’t have a team that hasn’t recently won the Asia Cup. Nonetheless, fans can be certain that each of these teams will put in their best efforts to hoist the trophy by the end of the competition.
The teams in this group are young, full of energy, and - most importantly - hungry to win.
Team to beat: Lebanon
It’s a close race between the teams in the group, but Lebanon seem to have great momentum heading into the Asia Cup - enough to put the targets on their back as the team to beat. The Cedars are a young, energetic squad and once they get going, they can be tough to stop as Jordan and Saudi Arabia experienced in the recent window of the World Cup Qualifiers.
Lebanon have played in the Asia Cup Final three times already, but haven’t made it as deep in the competition since 2007. Now with a solid squad led by Wael Arakji, Lebanon are aiming to make it all the way to Final once again.
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Key matchup: Lebanon vs New Zealand
Lebanon and New Zealand are two teams that have played against each other many times in the recent years - three encounters to be exact, spread across the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers and Asia Cup 2017. While the Tall Blacks won in all three encounters, each game was decided by no more than 4 points.
More than just the close defeats for Lebanon, it’s the consequences of those losses that will fuel the fire of competition for the Cedars. It was especially painful for Lebanon at the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers where the 69-67 loss to Lebanon virtually kept them out of World Cup qualification.
This upcoming matchup could either be a chance at redemption for Lebanon or an opportunity to rub salt in the wound for New Zealand.
Click here for the full schedule of Group D.
Star: Wael Arakji (LBN)
In a group filled with stars, Wael Arakji might be the brightest one to shine at Asia Cup 2022. This will be Arakji’s third Asia Cup and considering how big of a leap he took from playing in Asia Cup 2015 to Asia Cup 2017, this could be when he takes another step ahead.
After averaging 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in 2017 at just 23 years old, it will be exciting to see what Arakji can do in Jakarta.
Player(s) to Watch: Ray Parks (PHI)
Parks hasn’t played for the senior national team since 2016, while fans have desired to see him put on the Gilas jersey once again for a long time. That will now happen here in Jakarta.
The 29-year-old has been one of the better two-way players in the Philippines talent pool and fans will get to see that in action as the Philippines go up against some stiff competition. He’ll also be relied on to be a veteran on this young team as they battle through the Asia Cup.
Player(s) to Watch: Tohi Smith-Milner (NZL)
Tohi Smith-Milner is one of the two players returning from the Tall Blacks’ Asia Cup 2017 run. The 26-year-old forward was among one of five players to average double-digit scoring with 10.5 points per game and could be expected to provide a bit more here in 2022 as he slides into a veteran role.
The 2.06M (6’9”) forward provides a good amount of size and physicality for the Tall Blacks which will be key against the competition here in Jakarta.
Familiar face: Amritpal Singh (IND)
After playing in 4 Asia Cups as Amritpal Singh has, you are bound to be a familiar face with the fans. There’s a lot of youth in this India national team squad, which means that aside from relying on Amritpal’s size in the paint, they will also need his leadership.