Lebanon beat Iran to close with back-to-back wins
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Lebanon led from start to finish as they defeated Iran, 81-73, in their final Classification Round matchup at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
This was the first time for Lebanon to win consecutive games in the World Cup. Together with their previous win over Cote d'Ivoire, Lebanon ensured they would end their World Cup campaign on a very bright note.
The turning point: Veteran big man Ali Haidar spearheaded Lebanon's strong start in this game as they led, 12-4, early in the first quarter. They would never relinquish the lead and just stave off any Iranian efforts to overhaul the deficit. The Cedars responded well, though, eventually restoring their 19-point advantage by the middle of the fourth period. The Iranians mounted one final push to make it a two-possession game in the final minute, but Lebanon's cushion was just too much.
TCL Player of the Game: Star point guard Wael Arakji was superb for Lebanon. He had 21 points on 6-of-9 field goal shooting and 8-of-9 free throw shooting. He also added 7 assists and 3 rebounds in a sterling effort.
Haidar and Wael Arakji combined to score 41 points to lead the Cedars. Omari Spellman also did well with 9 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. Mohammad Mamini led Iran with 22 points.
Stats don't lie: Lebanon's outside shooting helped them get to a fast start. They finished the game hitting nine three-pointers to Iran's 4. Lebanon also moved the ball really well, tallying 22 assists on their 25 field goals.
Bottom Line: Lebanon's second win put them in second place in Group P right behind France. The Cedars will finish in the 21st to 24th place tier. Iran, meanwhile, finished the tournament winless after five games. This is the first time ever that Iran have failed to win at a FIBA World Cup.
They said: "Congratulations to Lebanon. They played better than us very second of the game. I don't really know what to say. We have competed with them for many times. I have had a long career with the national team since the 2000s. I know I put everything for my national team even with injuries. I try to play when I can even if I'm out of shape. I feel good, but I feel upset too because I leave my team. I want to give a special thank you to my doctor here who has been with me for more than 10 years. Thank you for pushing me even if I already want to quit. I wish the best for the national team. We have talent but we also have to be patient if they need anything. I am here to help." - Hamed Haddadi, Iran center
"My team fought to the last second of the game. Everyone has to adapt. Maybe we didn't get some good results in the World Cup, but all the team fought and stayed together until the last second. Also I want to commend Hamed. Even with injury, he played and even put up 14 points and 8 rebounds. He is a great example for every sports man and even dedicated himself to this game of basketball." - Hakan Demir, Iran coach
"I feel tired. Finally, it's over. Thank God. Tonight the win was for Lebanon. We had to win for the country, for us, for our coaches, for the federation. We played and ended it the right way. Now I have five days in Bali with my wife. I will enjoy it. I don't want to think about basketball first for now." - Ali Haidar, Lebanon forward
"Respect to Ali Haidar, our real beast. He is the only five man who really fought against all the big men at the World Cup. Respect also to all the other players who helped us get to here, helping us in many windows. I also want to talk about our fans. They are our number one player. They helped us to be here. I also thank our federation. Thank you for trusting us, for appointing us to work for Lebanon. It's an honor for us, also for our management. We enjoyed our experience here and learned a lot here." - Jad El Hajj, Lebanon coach