Heart-stopping games, huge crowds and countries that clinch World Cup spots make Qualifiers' fourth window truly memorable
MIES (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers) - The Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers tipped off in style with the imagination of fans in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe being captured once again thanks to heart-stopping games and jam-packed arenas.
Six countries, through magical performances from some of their stars, booked their places in next year's 32-team tournament.
As had been the case in the First Round of the Qualifiers, throngs of fans made their way to the venues to witness all of the action first-hand.
A 9,100 capacity crowd crammed into Tbilisi's Sports Palace to watch their talented Georgia side go head-to-head with undefeated Greece for 40 minutes, while the biggest crowd ever to a watch a men's national team game in the Czech Republic - 8,500 spectators - saw the Tomas Satoransky-led side square off against Russia in the Tipsport Arena in Pardubice.
More than 14,000 stood and cheered for China against Jordan in Beijing's Wukesong Sports Center, while there were over 9,500 fans in attendance for Turkey's clash against Montenegro at Ankara Arena and a sold-out Roberto Clemente Coliseum served as the background for Puerto Rico's home game against Panama.
The fourth window of the Qualifiers will prove unforgettable and can be considered the best so far because of how many close games it witnessed: four were decided by 1 point, two by 2 points, three by 3 points, five by 4 points, four by 5 points, four by 6 points, three by 7 points and two by 8 points.
In this amazingly good window, four contests went to overtime and one even went to double overtime - Lithuania's 95-93 triumph over the Netherlands.
Game Day 2⃣ of Window 4⃣ was one to remember 💯! #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse pic.twitter.com/WR9dEsTefN— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) September 19, 2018
Sunday's Group L clash between Georgia and Greece, in Tbilisi's Sports Palace did not go to overtime but yet was decided by a single point and, many would argue, was the most dramatic of all the contests.
The Greeks carried an unbeaten record to the Georgian capital where they fought back from a 17-point deficit to prevail 86-85 at the buzzer as Nick Calathes fed Kostas Papanikolaou on a game-winning fast-break in the dying seconds. The game will have a special place in Greek basketball history as it saw the country seal its spot in next year's World Cup in China.
Calathes was sensational too, drilling 7 of 11 three-pointers en route to a game-high - and personal Greek national team best - 31 points, while also handing out 8 assists, collecting 5 rebounds and coming up with 2 steals.
On September 13, the basketball buzz in Zouk Mikael on the outskirts of Beirut was undeniable as Lebanon survived against China in an overtime classic. Ali Haidar and Ater Majok combined for 43 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks as the Cedars lit up the Nouhad Nawful Sports Complex and its capacity crowd of 7,500 spectators with a 92-88 victory on the first day of the Asian Qualifiers.
On Monday, China had an audience twice that size at Beijing's Wukesong Sports Center - the venue that will host the World Cup's Semi-Finals, 3rd-Place Game and Final - as they rallied from 14 points down to beat Jordan, 88-79.
China's fans came out in force to support the team against Jordan
It was a brutal window for the Jordanians, who had lost 86-75 to Korea despite having a 5,500-soldout crowd cheering them on in the Prince Hamza Stadium in Amman on Thursday.
There were no seats unoccupied in the Prince Hamza when Jordan faced Korea
In the Americas, the demand for tickets was at an all-time high. More than 8,200 packed Santo Domingo's Palacio de los Deportes to watch the Dominican Republic take a convincing 71-46 win over Chile.
A whopping crowd of 7,800 filled Caracas' Forum de Valencia where they witnessed a thriller, a 79-78 Venezuela victory over the Dominican Republic that needed overtime.
In Africa, fans of FIBA AfroBasket 2017 winners Tunisia and another continental powerhouse, Nigeria, were delirious as their sides became the very first to clinch World Cup berths.
Both teams remained unbeaten with the Tunisians downing Morocco (65-50), Egypt (69-47) and Angola (84-64), and Nigeria defeating Cote d'Ivoire (84-73), Central African Republic (114-69) and Senegal (89-61).
FIBA AfroBasket 2011 MVP Salah Mejri of Tunisia swatted shots and dunked to the delight of the home fans in Rades while FIBA AfroBasket 2017 MVP Ike Diogu of Nigeria dazzled for D'Tigers in Lagos.
Tunisia clinched a World Cup berth in front of their devoted fan base
Every day there were compelling contests and loud crowds, proving again and again that the appetite is enormous for national team basketball.
In Europe, the Czech Republic continued their dream run to the World Cup with an 80-78 win over Russia in Pardubice on Thursday. Supporters watched Tomas Satoransky, Jan Vesely, Ondrej Balvin and numerous other Czechs like Jaromir Bohacik and Vojtech Hruban again make names for themselves in the Czech Republic jersey.
Ronen Ginzburg's side then clinched a spot in China with an 85-80 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo on Sunday.
It was a tough window for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had nearly battled back to stun Finland in their new Espoo Metro Arena before 7,900 fans but lost, 85-81.The Susijengi, indeed, remain one of the best supported national teams on the old continent.
The Susijengi faithful showed they remain among the best fans in international basketball
Happy Germany fans in Leipzig witnessed a game on Sunday that has left many Israel supporters shaking their heads in disbelief. The visitors led by 23 points but ended up losing in overtime, 112-98, a result that punched the Germans' ticket to the World Cup.
Germany improved to 8-0 in the Qualifiers and booked their spot in the World Cup with a win over Israel
On Monday, Lithuania needed double overtime against the Netherlands but finally won their clash, 95-93, when and long-time national team hero Mantas Kalnietis drilled a game-winning three-pointer.
Kalnietis added a game-winning shot to his famous Lithuania national team career
With the win, Lithuania stayed unbeaten and became the sixth and last team in the window to secure its place in the World Cup.