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22 November, 2021
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Power Rankings: How do the European teams shape up after the First Round?

 

MUNICH (Germany) - The First Round of the European Qualifiers has concluded and it is time to review how the qualified teams are shaping up on the road to FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

18 teams have made it through to the Second Round with only 12 spots available from Europe to make it to the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia at next year's major tournament.

Taking the final window into account and a longer-term view, we delve into the teams and first highlight the top 12 currently best placed to qualify.

NOTE: The movement from previous rankings in June is reflected in the brackets.

#1 - FRANCE FRA (0)

Current Record: 5-1 (1st in Group K)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 4th

Not quite the perfect 6-0 record as anticipated as France - with a stronger roster - were beaten on the road by Montenegro in their penultimate game. It was a defiant response from Vincent Collet's side on home soil as they dismantled Hungary in a dominant victory in which their defense held their opponents to just 40 points and they still very much look on course to make it to the 2023 World Cup.

Next window: H v Czech Republic - August 24; A v Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 27

#2 - SPAIN ESP (0)

Current Record: 3-1 (3rd in Group L)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 2nd

The reigning World Cup champions took a slight detour on their journey to being able to defend their title after losing to Georgia in a rocking Tbilisi. Spain were almost bumped further off course by Ukraine, but for the outstretched fingertips of Sebastian Saiz preventing another loss as they came through a tense battle in Riga. Italy await in the Second Round, but they begin with a favorable window with games against Iceland and the Netherlands for the chance to pull away amongst the top three spots.

Next window: H v Iceland - August 24; A v Netherlands - August 27

#3 - GREECE  GRE (+1)

Current Record: 3-1 (1st in Group I)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 9th

Greece overcame a slow start at home to Great Britain to really power through for the win to take early top spot in the Second Round group. They followed up their double success over Turkey to claim a third victory and can already start to look ahead to a titanic tussle with Serbia in August as they head into the game in very different scenarios. Greece will look to continue to build under Dimitris Itoudis with more star power still to be added to their ranks.

Next window: A v Serbia - August 25; H v Belgium - August 28

#4 - LITHUANIA  LTU (-1)

Current Record: 5-1 (2nd in Group K)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th

A slight dip for Lithuania as they were unable to put the finishing touches on what was an impressive First Round campaign. They had to hold off a resilient challenge from Bulgaria to seal a two-point win on the road to improve to 5-0, but fell to an even more determined Czech Republic side fighting for their survival on Gameday 6. Lithuania join France in a strong position at 5-1 and will hope to add two more victories in August before locking horns with the 2019 World Cup bronze medalists.

Next window: A v Hungary - August 24; H v Montenegro - August 27

#5 - GERMANY  GER  (+2)

Current Record: 5-1 (1st in Group J)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 11th

Germany make the jump up two spots after an impressive final window saw them cement a 5-1 record to take through to the Second Round. They advanced with an emphatic 31-point success away in Estonia before coming through a tough battle with Poland as Dennis Schroder caught fire with a European Qualifiers record of 38 points to eliminate their opponents. A lot can change in the Second Round, but they have momentum on their side with five straight wins and a cushion ahead of the teams outside of the coveted top three spots.

Next window: A v Sweden - August 25; H v Slovenia - August 28

#6 - ITALY  ITA  (0)

Current Record: 3-1 (1st in Group L)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 10th

No major problems for Italy as they completed their First Round campaign with an 11-point win over the Netherlands on the road. They will hope to have got their blip out of the system after the loss to Iceland in the previous window as they sit well placed in the Second Round standings. They will have to come up against Spain twice in the next phase, but will still be strongly favored to take up one of the top three spots in the group.

Next window: A v Ukraine - August 24; H v Georgia - August 27

#7 - SLOVENIA  SLO (+1)

Current Record: 4-2 (3rd in Group J)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 5th

Two contrasting wins in the final window, but two wins nevertheless as Slovenia moved onto the Second Round in style. The return of Goran Dragic out of retirement gave the team a lift and Luka Doncic eased back into his usual role with two dominant all-round displays. Slovenia cruised to a home win against Croatia before being pushed all the way on the road by Sweden as they take four wins through to the Second Round as an intriguing meeting with Germany looms.

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Next window
: H v Estonia - August 25; A v Germany - August 28

#8 - LATVIA  LAT (+1)

Current Record: 3-1 (2nd in Group I)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 26th

Three straight wins became five straight wins with Latvia building momentum to take into the Second Round. They avenged their agonizing loss to Serbia in Belgrade as they shut their opponents down in the second half with a staunch defensive display. Davis Bertans marked his return and could be joined by Kristaps Porzingis in August with a crucial encounter on home soil as they welcome Turkey in their opener for the next phase as they look to preserve their positioning in the group with a current 3-1 record.

Next window: H v Turkey - August 25; A v Great Britain - August 28

#9 - FINLAND  FIN (+2)

Current Record: 5-1 (2nd in Group J)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 35th

Finland followed up their double over Slovenia in February with another perfect window to take a strong 5-1 record through to the Second Round. The return of Lauri Markkanen was a big boost for the side as they first brushed aside Sweden on home soil before sending Croatia home as Markkanen stepped up with a decisive game-winning three late in the contest. A great platform to build upon and they will be targeting another double in the August window.

Next window: H v Israel - August 25; A v Estonia - August 28

#10 - TURKEY  TUR (0)

Current Record: 2-2 (3rd in Group I)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 16th

Bounce-back confirmed. Turkey put aside the losses to Greece to return to winning ways on the road against Great Britain with Shane Larkin pulling the strings once again. They currently occupy the third and final qualifying spot in the Second Round group, but there's a long way to go as they come up against both Latvia and Serbia in the next window. Turkey can still get stronger, and may well have to, as their next two games have potentially major implications in terms of the outlook of the group.

Next window: A v Latvia - August 25; H v Serbia - August 28

#11 - SERBIA  SRB (-6)

Current Record: 1-3 (5th in Group I)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 6th

Well, well, well. That was not in the script. Serbia losing on the road against Latvia may not have been a complete surprise, but another defeat to Belgium on home soil has seen their World Cup hopes take a dent. One of Greece, Latvia, Turkey and Serbia will not make it to the 2023 edition of the big tournament, but it would still be a very bold call to write off Serbia at this stage. They are on the back foot, for sure, and how about taking on Greece and Turkey in the next window, which could see them get back on track or be in real danger of missing out.

Next window: H v Greece - August 25; A v Turkey - August 28

#12 - MONTENEGRO  MNE (New Entry)

Current Record: 4-2 (3rd in Group K)
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 25th

The new entrants into the top 12 after Montenegro pulled off a surprise win over France with Nemanja Radovic's late basket securing the victory in Podgorica. The win provides Montenegro a major boost to their World Cup hopes as every victory is huge, especially with a tough Second Round group to follow as they come up against the trio from Group F. It's arguably the most wide-open group with all teams with at least three wins and Montenegro have shown in the window that they are capable of beating the best.

Next window: H v Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 24; A v Lithuania - August 27

So, what about the other 12 teams that are still in contention?

Outside looking in:

Belgium; Czech Republic; Georgia; Iceland

Belgium completed a surprise double over Serbia to boost their chances, although they will face strong opposition from Group B, while Czech Republic turned their fortunes around with three straight wins to advance and they will look to continue their momentum. Georgia defeated Spain to stay unbeaten at home and that will be an advantage moving forward with Iceland taking three wins through to the Second Round to start in a solid position.

Work to do:

Bosnia and Herzegovina; Hungary; Israel; Ukraine

Dzanan Musa sent Bosnia and Herzegovina through in style and they are at 3-3 along with Hungary in the same group as they both look to break their way through into the top three as they will face France and Lithuania, respectively. Israel made sure they took care of their own business by beating Estonia to take three wins through and they will need a strong Second Round to qualify. It was an impressive final window from Ukraine as they almost added the scalp of Spain to Georgia, but at 1-3 they have a long way to go.

Big challenge ahead:

Estonia; Great Britain; Netherlands; Sweden

Estonia and Sweden will be grateful to still be in contention as their hopes were almost dashed in the First Round before Poland and Croatia fell to their exits. Both sides are at 2-4 in their groups and face a long way back with tough encounters to follow. Great Britain upset Greece in their opener, but three defeats followed and they will need to get results from the likes of Latvia and Serbia. Meanwhile, the Netherlands are still without a win to their name and the daunting challenge of facing the World Cup champions twice in their next six games.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.

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