25 August, 2023
10 September
23 Lauri Markkanen (FIN)
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Qualified Team Focus - Finland: How far can Markkanen carry Susijengi?

MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.  

After Spain and Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany and Canada, next up is the number 24 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Quarter-Finalists Finland.

How did they qualify

Finland went into the European Qualifiers highly motivated to right the wrong of failing to qualify for the 2019 Word Cup in China. The Finns had long become a regular at the FIBA EuroBasket and their next goal was to gain the same status at the global stage.

Head coach Lassi Tuovi and his troops stormed through the qualifiers and became the first European team to qualify for Indonesia, Japan and Philippines - and doing so with two windows to spare. Tuovi used a core of seven players who played at least eight of the first 10 games including three appearing in all 10.

The Susijengi also knew it could always rely on their amazing fan support. More than 5,000 fans came out for the country's first home game of the campaign in Espoo to help Finland past Croatia after dropping the opening Group C game in Sweden.

That victory started a seven-game winning streak with wins two and three coming in a massive morale-boosting second window in February 2022. Sasu Salin drained 7 three-pointers in scoring 25 points as Finland beat 2017 European champions Slovenia at home. The Nordic country doubled up on Slovenia with Mikael Jantunen scoring 17 points in an 83-79 victory on the road.

Superstar Lauri Markkanen arrived with the team for the June/July 2022 window, and he didn't disappoint. He collected 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a 16-point home win over Sweden. Markkanen then drained a corner three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to give Finland an 81-79 win in Croatia - finishing with 19 points and 7 rebounds.

A massive crowd of 11,554 showed up at the Nokia Arena in Tampere to see Markkanen do his magic in the first Second Round Group J game against Israel and the NBA star collected 28 points and 9 rebounds in a 79-73 win.

In the next game at Estonia, Finland fought back from 15 points down to win 76-68 with Salin scoring 20 points and Markkanen adding 18 points.

That completed the Finns' Window 4, but the August 2022 games were not complete and Finland actually got to celebrate qualifying for the World Cup later in the evening. They were watching on the flight home as Sweden beat Israel to clinch the berth to the World Cup. They were the first European squad to qualify.

Boosted by that, Finland then went to EuroBasket 2022 and beat Croatia again in the Round of 16 to reach the top eight for the first time since sixth place in 1967. But that was the end of the road as Finland lost 100-90 to Spain and finished the tournament in seventh place.

Finland returned to the World Cup Qualifiers in November 2022 and lost in Germany by 14 points but bounced back with a 20-point home win over Estonia.

Best result at the World Cup

Finland have only appeared in one World Cup, that coming in 2014 in Spain where they finished 22nd. The Finns failed to qualify for China 2019 but became first European team to book its ticket for Indonesia, Japan and Philippines.

Finland fans at 2014 World Cup

Last World Cup appearances

Finland’s first ever World Cup game in 2014 came against United States in Barakaldo, where they lost 114-55. Susijengi bounced back to defeat Ukraine 81-76 in their second game in Group C. Finland dropped their three final games: 84-78 to Dominican Republic, 77-73 in overtime to Turkey and 67-65 to New Zealand. That meant Finland finished last in Group C and 22nd overall.

Players to watch

Lauri Markkanen will spearhead Finland's attempt to survive a group of death in Okinawa at the FIBA Basketball World Cup after being named in the extended squad.

 He is joined by captain Sasu Salin, the only player in the squad to have competed with the Finns at the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

There is a lot to be excited about for Finland with point guard Miro Little, who dazzled at the EuroBasket and will play at Baylor University this coming season, in the squad.

Edon Maxhuni logged most of the minutes at the point at the EuroBasket and was the Finns' third leading scorer at 8.9 points per game and top assists man at 3.9 assists per contest.

A couple of other NCAA players that are sure to help Finland in the future, and maybe as early at the World Cup, have been included. One is athletic 2.11m center Federiko Federiko, who shone for the Pittsburgh Panthers last season.

Federiko raised eyebrows this summer in Finland while playing for the Susijengi Rising Stars against Estonia.

The other college standout is 2.03m forward Olivier Nkamhoua, a star for the Tennessee Volunteers who has transferred to Michigan