Mini World Cup captures the imagination, ends with thrilling Final in Wukesong Arena
BEIJING (China) - A champion has already been crowned this summer in Beijing's Wukesong Arena, the venue for the Final of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
The side known as "Mini Lithuania" came from behind to edge "Mini France" to lift the title.
The Mini World Cup was an event involving teenagers, and specifically players in China born after 2003. Rosters were assembled to represent the 32 countries taking part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which tips off on Saturday. All eight host cities of the FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted Group Phase games of the Mini World Cup.
Therefore, Mini World Cup Group Phase games were played in Beijing, Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan.
The winner of each group then advanced to the Final Phase in Beijing from August 22 to August 24, with "Mini Lithuania", which had won its group in Dongguan (the same city where Lithuania will play in the Group Phase of the World Cup), edging Shenzhen group winners, "Mini France".
Mini Lithuania trailed by 11 points in the second half but hit a game-winning jump shot with just 0.5 seconds remaining for a 103-102 triumph.
The opportunity to play in the Wukesong Arena in Beijing in the Final Phase was the sweetest of opportunities. It was the venue that hosted the 2008 Olympic basketball tournaments and it will also be the site where World Cup Semi-Finals, Third-Place Game and Final will be staged next month.
"The Final Phase games truly opened up my eyes," said Rui Zhao, a guard in the Nanjing (Mini Brazil) team. "I've gained experience and learned that there's still a lot of things I have to work on to catch up to the others.
"Also, this was my first time playing in the Wukesong Arena and everything is remarkable with the professional officials, staff and excellent facilities. I hope I can come back again to this holy land on behalf of Nanjing City."
This was the first-ever Mini World Cup staged shortly before the start of a FIBA Basketball World Cup. The competition's aim was to help young players improve on the court, to understand the FIBA Basketball World Cup and develop a love for it, and to also inspire more teenagers to play basketball. It was a huge success.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, meanwhile, will have 32 teams for the first time. China will also host the event for the first time.