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Two must-watch games in the second window of African Qualifiers
DAKAR (Senegal) - When the second window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers tips off in Dakar, Senegal next month, all eyes will be on two remarkable fixtures.
Obviously, the likes of Cameroon, Rwanda, DR Congo and Kenya are always fun to watch, but fireworks will be in store at the Dakar Arena during the three-day event when two powerhouse Senegal and Egypt lock horns in Group D while Africa champions Tunisia battle South Sudan in a David vs Goliath Group B encounter.
SENEGAL vs EGYPT
Senegal, placed third in the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket in Kigali, Rwanda are peaking at the right time while Egypt, who were 11th in the 16-team event, are fast spiralling downhill if that 86-78 shocker against Guinea is anything to go by.
While the young Lions are already showing their teeth and with the games in their own back yard, they should be able to bite a huge chunk.
American-born Pierra Henry, Gorgui Dieng, Youssoupha Ndoye, Ibrahima Faye and Brancou Badio form the Senegalese core.
They have pedigree and so much fire power and very much remains the team to beat.
The last time Senegal and Egypt faced off in the 2017 AfroBasket Group Phase in Dakar, the Senegalese dispatched their visitors 87-52.
Egypt are seeking a fourth appearance at the FIBA Basketball World Cup since their last outing in 2014 in Spain.
For the Pharaohs, and especially newly appointed Canadian tactician Roy Rana, he must show he can stop the bleeding sooner rather than later. Their last appeared in the Basketball World Cup podium is 2014 in Spain.
After an impressive 5-0 mark in the last AfroBasket Qualifiers last year, the Pharaohs - who shocked Senegal in the 2013 AfroBasket Semi-Finals - somehow run out of gas in the Finals after three straight defeats against Tunisia, Guinea and Angola. A win against the Central African Republic minimised the damages.
Under a new coaching staff, and a group of players that has been together for almost a decade, Egypt could give Senegal a hard time.
Their key players include Ehab Saleh Amin, who came out probably as the most productive sixth-man in Kigali, Anas Mohammed, Mohab Yasser and Amr Gendy.
TUNISIA vs SOUTH SUDAN
Sparks will fly when Africa's best team takes on new kid on the block. Tunisia were unscathed in a 6-0 record beating Cote d'Ivoire 78-75 in the finals of the 2021 AfroBasket on their way to a back to back crown.
It will be the second meeting between the two sides after Tunisia, making their 22nd appearance in the continental event prevailed 80-65 in the Quarter Finals in Kigali.
The African champions, who qualified for their first FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2010 and finished 20th in the last one in China, looks solid. They have pedigree, fire power and very much remain the team to beat in Group B.
It will be inconceivable if Tunisia fail to make it, going by their form, Tunisia boast Makren Ben Romdhane, Omar Abada, Mourad El Mabrouk, Michael Roll and Salah Mejri.
South Sudan, who played in their first FIBA AfroBasket last year and wound up in an impressive seventh-place, will also be making their first appearance in a WC Qualifier.
The South Sudanese announced their arrival in the continental scene during the Pre-Qualifiers in the Kenyan capital in January 2020. They roared to four convincing wins before going down 74-68 to the host.
Despite being dismantled 104-75 by the Senegalese in Kigali, they regrouped to upstage Uganda 88-86 finishing second in Group D and stormed the Quarter Finals by dispatching Kenya 60-58.
Deng Acuoth, Mareng Gatkuoth, Kuany and Deng Ring had solid contributions in their first Africa festival and will be banked on to produce.
So can South Sudan draw some inspirations from Uganda against Nigeria in the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket 2021 event?
The first window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers started in November 2021 in Benguela, Angola where Cote d'Ivoire finished undefeated in three games.