22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
8 Behnam Yakhchali (IRI), 6 Shaim Kuanov (KAZ)
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Group F Preview: Down to the wire

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - It seems like Group F will have an entertaining run to close out the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers as it could go down to the absolute final buzzer because all qualification spots are confirmed.

The last ticket remaining in the group will be fought for between Iran and Kazakhstan in a tight race. Without overthinking anything, their main objective is pretty easy to understand: win.

Aside from the battle for the last World Cup qualification spot, there is plenty of intrigue in the teams that have qualified who are expected to parade and showcase their up-and-coming talents in the senior national team for the first time whether it is Zeng Fanbo or Yuta Kawashima. China are heading into a new era with coach Sasha Djordjevic as the head coach and Japan are continuously working around the edges to have the best team prepared for the World Cup, so both teams will want to build up a winning culture as early as they can in this process.

Here's what the standings look like in Group F heading into Window 6 of the Asian Qualifiers:

Group F

12/18 games played

All First Round results carry over to Second Round

# Team P W L % For Agt +/- FA AA  
1 AUS Australia(1) 10 9 1 90.0 812 553 259 81.2 55.3 18
2 CHN China(1) 10 8 2 80.0 802 659 143 80.2 65.9 18
3 IRI Iran 10 6 4 60.0 721 642 79 72.1 64.2 16
4 JPN Japan(1) 10 5 5 50.0 726 745 -19 72.6 74.5 15
5 KAZ Kazakhstan 10 5 5 50.0 667 703 -36 66.7 70.3 15
6 BRN Bahrain 10 2 8 20.0 638 826 -188 63.8 82.6 12
(1)Qualified for the World Cup

23 February 2023

Japan vs Iran - 15:00 GMT +9 - Takasaki, Japan
Australia vs Bahrain - 19:00 GMT +11 - Melbourne, Australia
China vs Kazakhstan - 19:00 GMT +8 - Hong Kong, Hong Kong

For the two teams that are in must-win mode, it will be tough away games with Iran in Japan and Kazakhstan in Hong Kong. Again, even if both China and Japan are qualified, they won't simply roll over and wait for the main event later this year. Expect these to be hard fought games to the end.

26 February 2023

Australia vs Kazakhstan - 15:00 GMT +11 - Melbourne, Australia
China vs Iran - 12:00 GMT +8 - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Japan vs Bahrain - 14:05 GMT +9 - Takasaki, Japan

Unless Iran defeat Japan and China defeat Kazakhstan on 23 February, we will get to witness Kazakhstan go up against the Boomers and Iran go up against China at the same time, playing for the World Cup qualification ticket down to the final seconds. Exciting times indeed.

Debuts to watch

Yuto Kawashima

Height: 2.00M (6'7")

It seems highly likely that Yuto Kawashima will make his senior national team debut in this window. He's quickly shot up the rankings from youth national team star to U16 Asian Championship MVP to Japan's development team training camp call-up to late addition to the senior national team training camp.

Japan basketball fans seem excited for this potential debut this early in his career ... and they should be!

Zeng Fanbo

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A post shared by Fanbo Zeng (@fanbo_zeng)


Height: 2.07M (6'9")

Aside from the transition to a new coaching era, it seems highly likely that China will also be injecting some more youth into their system. In the recent years, they've already integrated rising youngster, Zhang Zhenlin, into the mix and now they are expected to add another talented (and high-flying) young forward in Zeng Fanbo.

Zeng has been playing at a high level for the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) after having played high school basketball in the USA and playing professionally with the G League Ignite team. He's been shortlisted for the youth and senior national teams many times, but has not yet been able to make his official FIBA debut just yet.

This window seems like a ripe opportunity as China goes up against two physical teams that could really test how good Zeng can be.

Debut to watch

Sajjad Pazrofteh

Height: 1.88M (6'2")

Pazrofteh is not a new name by any means as he's already played in multiple windows and the Asia Cup last year. But as of late, he's looked much more confident to do what he can do on the court. This was clearly evident in WASL West Asia where he played for Gorgan and is averaging 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Iran have enough sharpshooters in Behnam Yakhchali and Mohammad Jamshidi, so if Pazrofteh can step up and add some length and athleticism to this mix, Team Melli could raise their ceiling a bit more.

Here's where Group F teams are ranked in the FIBA World Rankings, as well as in Asia:
3. AUSAustralia 1. AUS 740.3 0
20. IRIIran 2. IRI 452.5 +1
27. CHNChina 4. CHN 407.7 0
38. JPNJapan 7. JPN 327.9 0
65. KAZKazakhstan 10. KAZ 152.5 0
84. BRNBahrain 17. BRN 118.3 +2