Qualified Team Focus - Montenegro out to show size doesn't matter
MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, 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.
Here is the number 18 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, four-time FIBA EuroBasket participants Montenegro.
Montenegro take care of business and book their ticket for the World Cup! ✈️🇲🇪#FIBAWC x #WinForMontenegro pic.twitter.com/dHMFEgFHW2— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 26, 2023
How did they qualify
Montenegro booked their spot in the 2023 World Cup field on the final game day of the European Qualifiers, which was the end of a long journey that started in the European Pre-Qualifiers way back in August 2021.
Head coach Bosko Radovic's team hosted the Group F qualification bracket from August 12-18 in Podgorica and collected two wins each over Iceland and Denmark to enter Group E of the main qualification. Montenegro opened the European Qualifiers with a 73-67 loss in France after wasting a 10-point lead late in the third quarter with Vladimir Mihailovic scoring 23 points.
The Balkan side got its first win later in the November 2021 window, knocking off Portugal behind 22 points from Justin Cobbs.
Mihailovic starred again in Montenegro's win in the first game of the February 2022 window, scoring 27 points in a victory at Hungary with Bojan Dubljevic flirting with a triple-double in collecting 19 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But the team was upset at home by Hungary days later 88-84.
Montenegro bounced back in the June-July 2022 window, winning a 70-69 thriller over France with 17 lead changes and Nemanja Radovic's floater with 31 seconds left deciding the game. Montenegro also won comfortably in Portugal.
The Second Round Group K action started with a convincing win at home over Bosnia and Herzegovina with Mihailovic pouring in 20 points. Montenegro lost the second game of the August 2022 window by 17 points in Lithuania despite 21 points from Kendrick Perry.
Montenegro had a strong Group Phase of the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 with three wins before being bounced in the Round of 16 by Germany.
The November 2022 window followed with a 65-55 road win over the Czech Republic and a 65-55 home loss to Lithuania. That left the final window in February 2023 to decide if Montenegro would make it back to the World Cup. They failed to convert their first chance with a 74-66 loss at Bosnia and Herzegovina but finished the deal with an 88-70 win at home over the Czech Republic.
Best result at the World Cup
This is Montenegro's second appearance in the World Cup and back-to-back showings. The Balkan nation was the smallest nation to reach the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019 with a population of 600,000 - a mark that Cape Verde later claimed for 2023.
China 2019 was Montenegro's debut and they ended up taking 25th place among 32 countries.
Last World Cup appearances
Montenegro reached the global stage for the first time for China 2019 and dropped all three games in the First Round - to Greece, New Zealand and Brazil. In 17th-32nd Classification, they lost to Turkey before knocking off Japan 80-65 for their first-ever World Cup win.
Players to watch
Only one of the three players between Justin Cobbs, Jonah Radebaugh and Kendrick Perry will be in the World Cup for Montenegro.
But the Balkan side has a strong core of leaders including Vladimir Mihailovic, Bojan Dubljevic, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Ivanovic, Dino Radoncic, Nemanja Radovic and Zoran Nikolic.
Coach Radovic also has Marko Todorovic, Igor Drobnjak, Aleksa Ilic, Marko Simonovic and Petar Popovic. And the coach could also bring some youngsters to Asia, among the options being Andrija Grbovic, Jovan Klijajic, Andrija Slavkovic, Bojan Tomasevic and Fedor Zugic
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:
Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada , Finland, New Zealand, USA, Serbia, Brazil and Venezuela.