Amped up supporters turn out in big numbers for last international window
MIES (Switzerland) - Large, electrifying crowds greeted national teams in arenas around the globe as countries competed in the sixth and final window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers.
Whether games were played in Asia, the Americas, Africa or Europe, fans turned out for their countries, even when teams had already clinched spots in the World Cup field.
In the Philippines, the biggest crowd of the Asian Qualifiers window was 12,956 spectators at the Philippine Arena on Friday as Gilas beat Lebanon. Those on hand saw USA legend Carmelo Anthony, who was announced as a FIBA Basketball World Cup Global Ambassador.
The Philippines will host Group Phase Games and the Final Phase, which will be played at the Philippine Arena. The FIBA Basketball World Cup tips off on August 25 and concludes on September 10.
The appetite for national team basketball remains big in Venezuela, where the team had 11,772 fans watch its victory over the Bahamas on Friday in the Poliedro de Caracas. At the same venue three days later, Canada rolled to a 74-67 triumph over Venezuela before 12,609 spectators.
Brazil's home-court advantage in Santa Cruz do Sul helped the national team defeat the USA on Sunday to qualify for the World Cup. The venue was almost packed with 5,542 fans that sang and cheered from start to finish.
Angola's team benefited from big audiences in Luanda, with 9,500 supporters turning out to watch the team defeat Cape Verde on Saturday and another 7,890 seeing the team defeat Nigeria.
In Europe at the Arena Riga, the Latvia national team euphoria remained at an all-time high. The country had already booked a spot in the World Cup for the first time in its history yet the venue was still filled to 99 percent capacity on Monday with 11,127 spectators as the Baltic team triumphed over Greece.
The result improved Latvia's record to nine wins and one defeat in Group I - three victories more than second place Serbia and third-placed Greece (both 6-4).
A few days earlier, a strong crowd of 7,101, many of them families with wide-eyed, enthusiastic children, had showed up at the Ano Liosia Olympic Sports Hall and roared on a young Greece team against Serbia. The Greeks, led by 21-year-old Nikos Rogkavopoulos and his 26 points, won an overtime thriller, 97-92.
Serbia bounced back in its second game of the window on Monday when, before an attendance of 6,850 at the SC Aleksandar Nikolic in Belgrade, the team defeated Great Britain to claim the last berth on offer for the 32-team World Cup.
A whopping 10,000 fans were inside the Tbilisi Arena on Sunday to see Georgia take on Iceland and qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the country's history. The capacity crowd was extremely loud and ultimately relieved after Iceland missed a shot at the buzzer that would have prevented Georgia's qualification.
Georgia and Iceland each finished with 5-5 records in Group L, with the Georgians taking the World Cup spot thanks to a +1 goal differential in the two games between the teams.
Italy, who qualified for the World Cup in the previous window, hosted Ukraine on Thursday at the Amedeo Mondigliani Forum in Livorno and had 8,000 fans, giving it 100% capacity. The Azzurri rewarded their supporters with an 85-75 triumph.
The Mejdan venue in Tuzla was nearly overflowing with 5,200 supporters and that made all the difference for hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina in a win over neighbors Montenegro. Not to be outdone, on Monday 5,300 fans cheered on Montenegro in Podgorica as they beat the Czech Republic to qualify for the World Cup.
All eyes were on Victor Wembanyama and France when they edged Lithuania at the Arena Loire in Trelaze, 70-63. The venue was buzzing with 5,039 screaming, singing French-flag waving fans.
Three days before, Lithuania had had 4,389 supporters root them on to a victory over Hungary at the Svyturio Arena in Klaipeda.
Defending champions Spain had their Pabellon Multiusos Ciudad de Caceres humming with an impressive crowd of 5,400 on Sunday against Italy, a game the visitors won, 72-68.
In Frankfurt's Suwag Energie Arena, Germany had a 5,002-strong capacity crowd watch it claim a 73-66 victory over Sweden.
The Tofas Arena in Bursa had 6,048 spectators for their home game against Latvia on Friday while 24 hours before in the Netherlands, the Dutch crowd was at 94 percent capacity (3,000 spectators) in Almere Stad's Topsportcentrum for the game against Georgia.
Also in the Americas, the Coliseo Iva Bedout was almost filled to capacity with 5,892 spectators watching Colombia's game against Mexico on Thursday, and 4,562 turning out to see the game against Puerto Rico on Sunday.
And the Polideportivo Islas Malvinas in Mar del Plata staged Argentina's last Americas Qualifier on Sunday against the Dominican Republic with 7,512 watching the latter win to reach the World Cup.
Also in Asia, fans in Japan watched their national team claim victories over Iran on Thursday and Bahrain on Sunday, with the Takasaki Arena filled to capacity both times, and Australia's State Basketball Centre was filled to capacity with 3,294 fans watching their big win over Kazakstan.