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Group D Preview: Qualifiers hit Bahrain and Syria for the first time
MANAMA (Bahrain) & DAMASCUS (Syria) - There haven’t been any major upsets (yet) in Group D of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers. However, heading into the second game of the window, there will be at least two first-time occurences to follow.
First time in Manama
Bahrain’s first game ever in a World Cup Qualifiers did go as well as planned, but at least they’ll get the chance to redeem themselves in the sweet comfort of their home court at the Khalifa Sport City.
This will be the first Qualifiers game played in Bahrain after serving as host for the FIBA Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers and Qualifiers in the recent years. Now that they’re playing at home, Bahrain will need to put on a gargantuan effort if they want to also claim their first win in the World Cup Qualifiers.
They were nearly outrebounded by Arsalan Kazemi alone in the previous game (26 rebounds) and that’s something that they have to work on in the rematch. It’s not easy to box out a big and physical team like Iran, but Bahrain will have to put in extra effort to do that if they aim to win.
It seems like Iran didn’t have to sweat too much to beat Bahrain in the previous game. Once their lead his double-digits, it stayed that way to the end. This was just more evidence of how insanely talented Iran are as a squad from top to bottom.
This is where Iran might need to be a bit careful. While they’ve been dominant for most of their time playing against opponents in Asia, they do have some slip ups such as the upset loss to Iraq in the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers and more recently to Syria in the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Iraq and Syria were feisty opponents that never backed down and that’s exactly what Bahrain might be capable of. Add in the factor that Bahrain will be playing on their homecourt and you’ll see why Iran have to maintain laser focus in playing their game as they’ve always done.
When you have solid veterans like Mahdi Kamrani and Arsalan Kazemi, that makes the job a lot easier.
Synergy in Syria
Another first in these World Cup Qualifiers is the first Qualifiers game played in Syria. Considering that Syria were a part of the Qualifiers in 2019 makes this even more meaningful. Because of the situation in Syria in the past years, the fans have been hungry for live action of their beloved national team heroes on the hardwood and that’s exactly what they are going to get when they face Kazakhstan.
This “homecoming” game would have been a bit more lively had Syria been able to win in Astana, but the past is the past and the team will move on.
For this upcoming match, Coach Joe Salerno mentioned that he needed to get more players involved in the game. Few will argue with that evaluation after Amir Hinton took a total of 23 shots, accounting for almost half of the entire team’s attempts. Hinton should still be expected to shoulder the scoring load for Syria, but someone else needs to step up and also take a bigger chunk of that responsibility.
If Syria can do that, they might also end up celebrating a first Qualifiers win in Syria as well.
Taking the W
“Better 1-0 than 0-1, right?” Darko Russo, head coach of Kazakhstan said in the postgame press conference.
Russo expressed that the team didn’t play entirely too well, but at the end of the day, a win is a win.
And with that win, Kazakhstan should be heading into this game against Syria with a bit more confidence. There’s not a lot of pressure on any single player to have an outstanding performance, as seen in their last game, and that’s something that they’ll have to maintain in keeping balance.
It’s better to be 2-0 than 1-1, right coach Russo?
Player(s) to Watch
Arsalan Kazemi (IRI): When you put up a triple-double with a record-breaking amount of rebounds that matched the total amount of rebounds the entire opposing team got, you are an immediate lock as a player to watch for the next game. An underrated part of Kazemi rebounding the ball is how well he pushes the ball forward back on offense as well.
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Mohammed Hamooda (BRN): As one of the biggest bodies Bahrain can put on the court against Iran, Hamooda’s responsibilities are quite heavy on his shoulders. How Hamooda responds to this opportunity will be key to Bahrain’s success.
Nikolay Bazhin (KAZ): Kazakhstan as a team are solid, but Bazhin is the most solid among all the players on the squad. After posting a double-double in game 1, it’ll be interesting to see how well he does in game 2.
The Entire Team (Syria): After his debut, fans are now aware of what Amir Hinton can do. Now for Syria to succeed, the rest of the team now has to showcase what they can do as well, to win this on their homecourt. Syria have proven that they are capable of being historic (see: vs Iran, Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers), so their fans are just waiting to see that happen once again.