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16 fantastic teams and how they found their way to the World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - The destination, as in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, will be grand and beautiful indeed for all the teams in the Asian Qualifiers. But as they always say, don’t forget to admire the journey along the way.
Each of the 16 teams from Asia & Oceania that are playing for a spot in the World Cup have travelled difficult paths to make it to the Qualifiers, different in their own way. Here we take a look back at how they got here.
This will be the second straight World Cup Qualifiers for India. Even though they went winless in the 2019 cycle, it earned them a direct spot at the Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers.
The pressure to qualify for Asia Cup 2021 and the World Cup 2023 Qualifiers were piled on after losing their first game to Bahrain by only 1 point. Another loss to Bahrain in the second window meant that India were out of the running for a direct qualification spot.
However, it set the stage for an intense situation in the final window with a spot to the Qualifying Tournament for Third Ranked Teams on the line. This resulted in a heroic halfcourt, buzzer-beating, game-winner by Vishesh Bhriguvanshi against Iraq, paving the way for India to keep their hopes alive.
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India lost their opening game at the Qualifying Tournament to hosts Saudi Arabia, but followed through with a gritty win over Palestine to qualify for the Asia Cup…
And here they are in the World Cup Qualifiers.
The Tall Blacks were one of the more impressive teams of the 2019 Qualifiers with only 2 losses and they are back this cycle once again.
They then proceeded to start their Asia Cup Qualifiers campaign with a historic upset against Australia in Australia, led by Reuben Te Rangi and Shea Ili. Another win against Guam was eventually enough for New Zealand to qualify for the Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers.
The Philippines made their historic back-to-back World Cup qualification runs in 2014 and 2019 and will be making it three-times-in-a-row this cycle as hosts of World Cup 2023.
The young Gilas squad impressively went undefeated through their 6 Asia Cup Qualifiers games, including two big wins against Korea. While SJ Belangel’s buzzer-beating game-winner is the moment that will stand out in the memories of the fans, the overall effort and performance of the entire squad is what willed the Philippines to those massive victories.
The Philippines successfully qualified for Asia Cup 2021 with those wins and will now also be a part of the World Cup Qualifiers as well even with their spot at the main event locked in.
Along with New Zealand and Australia, Korea held the best record in the World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers at 10-2. They’ll have the chance to duplicate that success soon in the cycle leading up to World Cup 2023.
As mentioned above, Korea suffered two losses to the Philippines through the Asia Cup Qualifiers. While that certainly slowed them down a bit, it didn’t stop the team from eventually qualifying for the Asia Cup and World Cup Qualifiers with a string of wins against Thailand and Indonesia.
Australia’s World Cup 2019 Qualifiers run will certainly be remembered by most Asia basketball fans for their upset loss to Japan, but that shouldn’t take away the fact that they went 10-2 all the way through to qualify for a Semi-Finals run at the World Cup.
Fresh off a bronze medal win at the Tokyo Olympics, their road to return to the World Cup continues here at the World Cup Qualifiers once again.
Their journey had a bumpy start as they lost at home to New Zealand, but later got back on track. After securing a win against Hong Kong and exacting revenge against the Tall Blacks, the Boomers were able to punch their ticket to the Asia Cup and the World Cup 2023 Qualifiers.
China won’t have the benefit of being able to test rosters out as they did throughout the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers when they were guaranteed a spot as hosts. Even then, they were able to finish with a 7-5 record.
The path to World Cup 2023 for China therefore started right from the Asia Cup Qualifiers where they faced some tough opponents, Japan and Chinese Taipei, in Group B. Impressively enough, China won all of their 4 games in a span of 5 days in the Clark bubble which was more than enough to get them through to this next stage.
What a roller coaster ride it’s been for Chinese Taipei on their way back for a second consecutive World Cup Qualifiers run.
After claiming the biggest win of the Asia Cup Qualifiers against Malaysia in the very first game, Chinese Taipei went on to lose four straight games to both China and Japan. Though they missed out the chance to qualify directly as the top two teams in the group, their hopes were still alive with a chance at the Qualifying Tournament for Third Ranked teams.
Riding the outstanding debut performance of their star youngster, Lin Ting-Chien, Chinese Taipei were able to beat Guam by aggregated score and claim their spot both at the Asia Cup and here at the World Cup Qualifiers.
It has been - and will continue to be - a great time to be a basketball fan in Japan. After hosting the Olympics, they will also be co-hosting the World Cup in 2023. This means an immediate spot at the World Cup and less pressure to win at the Qualifiers, but don’t expect them to back down to anyone easily.
Like the their World Cup 2023 co-hosts Philippines, Japan had to play their way through the Asia Cup Qualifiers as well. Even though they lost in two tightly contested games against China, they had won enough games to qualify for the Asia Cup.
They won’t need to win at the World Cup Qualifiers to seal their spot, but that certainly won’t hold them back from trying to win every single game they play.
Though they are also co-hosts of the World Cup, Indonesia’s situation for World Cup qualification is a bit less straightforward as that of Japan and the Philippines which is why their journey up until this point and beyond means a lot.
Indonesia are one of the few teams at this stage who played through the Pre-Qualifiers of the Asia Cup from way back in 2018. Through the SEABA Pre-Qualifiers and the Eastern Region qualifiers, Indonesia prevailed.
After that, Indonesia were announced as hosts of the Asia Cup. That might have lifted some of the pressure off of them through the Asia Cup Qualifiers as they went on to finish third place in Group A.
Now that they’ve made it to the World Cup Qualifiers, they’ll need to put in the work. Indonesia can earn an outright spot at the World Cup from this competition here and if they fail to do so, they’ll have to do it by advancing to the Quarter-Finals, at the very least, in the Asia Cup.
It will certainly be an uphill battle, but they’ve made it this far already so fans can be sure that they’ll push forward with their best efforts.
Jordan basketball is on the rise and this relatively young team can confirm that by qualifying for a second straight World Cup this cycle.
There were only 4 teams that remained undefeated through the Asia Cup Qualifiers and Jordan were one of them. They managed to avoid upsets against both Kazakhstan and Palestine, but looked impressive in each of their victories on their way to this World Cup Qualifiers and the upcoming Asia Cup.
This team is hungry for success and they’ve been munching through the previous stage of play as appetizers.
They came close, but Lebanon were still unable to qualify for World Cup 2019 after a heartbreaking loss to Korea. The current squad might have many new players mixed into the lineup, but the near-miss run to China will surely be in the back of their heads - even if just a bit.
So far, their journey towards World Cup 2023 has looked dominant. They had little to no problem blowing by their competition at the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
In their 6 wins, Lebanon averaged 28.2 points inn margin of victory. Aside from a 9-point win over Iraq, all games were won by double-digits.
Now that they are here in the World Cup Qualifiers, don’t expect them play with any less intensity as we’ve seen so far.
Saudi Arabia have never played at the World Cup, but they sure are making a compelling point as a contender to qualify with their level of play so far.
The Mean Green Machine are one of the three teams at the World Cup Qualifiers that have made through all the way from the Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers and it’s been quite a hustle. They nearly didn’t make it past the Gulf Pre-Qualifiers after suffering an early overtime loss before bouncing back to advance forward.
After going undefeated at the Western Region Pre-Qualifiers, Saudi Arabia found themselves in a tough spot once again at the Qualifiers in the highly competitive Group E.
It was yet another early overtime loss in the first window (this time to Syria), that put Saudi Arabia at a disadvantage and resulted in them missing out on direct qualification from the group.
Instead, Saudi Arabia had to play through the Qualifying Tournament for Third Ranked teams.
They had no problem beating India and Palestine there, allowing themselves to clinch tickets to both the Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers.
Bahrain have been a fun team to follow as they’ve ascended their way through to their first World Cup Qualifiers.
They’ve battled through the tough terrains of the Gulf Pre-Qualifiers and the Western Region Pre-Qualifiers of the Asia Cup, suffering losses along the way that made the journey just a bit more exciting.
Once they made it to the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Bahrain ended up being one of the first teams to officially qualify after scoring big wins against India and Iraq. They lost by quite a margin to Lebanon twice, but their tickets to Indonesia for Asia Cup 2021 were stamped nonetheless.
More than an Asia Cup berth, Bahrain also earned a chance to qualify for their first ever World Cup appearance here, though they know it won’t come easy.
The World Cup 2019 Qualifiers campaign for Iran had its highs and lows, but it ultimately ended up in Team Melli clinching Olympic qualification. Iran are still one of the top teams in Asia, as they’ve been for over a decade, so the target will still be on their backs in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.
Even though Iran were able to finish at the top of Group E as speculated, it was slightly a bit tougher than what most fans might have expected. Though Iran were able to convincingly win in most of their games, it took much more effort for them to beat Saudi Arabia in both of their matchups. Of course, they also suffered that monumental upset to Syria.
Whatever the case, Iran have made it through to the Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers, giving them another opportunity to assert their dominance over their foes.
It still seems like only yesterday when Kazakhstan beat the Philippines in Manila during the World Cup Qualifiers last time around. Now they’re back for a second straight time.
The Steppen Wolves looked like a solid unit as they played through the Asia Cup Qualifiers. Even though they suffered two losses, they were defeats at the hands of a strong Jordan team.
What’s important is that the four wins were enough to land them a spot in the Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers.
Against all odds, Syria are here. Despite all of the obstacles that the team and the country have had to face over the years, Syria are back once again for yet another round at the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
After suffering a 46-point loss to Iran in their first Asia Cup Qualifiers game, it looked as if Syria would end up short of where they are at this point. However, they turned things around to beat Saudi Arabia in overtime by 5 points in the very next game.
The roller coaster took a tumble downwards once again when they opened up the second window with a loss to Qatar, despite new additions to the team. But just when the situation was looking bleak, Syria marched on to beat Iran in one of the most memorable games of the competition.
The suspense remained in the air throughout their final two games of the last window, but they eventually emerged as the second ranked team in Group E to clinch a spot at the Asia Cup… and the World Cup Qualifiers as well.