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Angola's Yanick Moreira: ''We've qualified for the World Cup but we're not satisfied yet''
LUANDA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Angola center Yanick Moreira believes the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 could be a game-changer not only for his country but for the entire continent of Africa.
The 6ft 11in (2.11m) center played a leading role as Angola closed their African Qualifiers campaign in remarkable fashion by winning their last three games in front of their rowdy home crowd in Luanda in late November-early December.
"WE KNEW WE NEEDED TO WIN TWO GAMES TO QUALIFY. BUT, PLAYING AT HOME, WE DIDN'T WANT TO LOSE A GAME IN FRONT OF OUR HOME FANS. WE JUST WANTED TO GIVE THEM ONE MORE WIN FOR THE SUPPORT THEY GAVE US THROUGHOUT THE QUALIFIERS."
Moreira played in all 12 of Angola's games on the Road to China 2019 and averaged team-highs of 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. The African powerhouse beat Cameroon, fellow China 2019-bound Tunisia, DR Congo, Morocco, Egypt and Chad to extend their run of consecutive appearances in FIBA's flagship event to five.
Now, the 27-year-old says, it's time to replicate that success in China.
.@Ymoreira02 recorded a double double to inspire Angola 🇦🇴 to their 8th record appearance for an African side at the #FIBAWC!— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) December 2, 2018
🔥 13pts, 10reb, 5ast, 4stl vs Chad
➡ https://t.co/FTM6TACcEN pic.twitter.com/SkI0o2Xj4P
"[Winning all three games] It means a lot for all of us. We have qualified for the World Cup but we're not satisfied yet," he said to FIBA. basketball. "We've got a lot of work to do. We have got a lot of players who weren't here and we're trying to have them back on the team. We just don't want to go out there and lose all games. We want to go out there and compete against everybody."
Moreira knows of what he speaks, having made his World Cup debut in Spain four years ago, where the team went 2-3, with wins over Korea and Australia and a close loss against Slovenia. As such, the importance of competing against the best teams and players in the world is certainly not lost on him.
ESTAMOS APURADOS PARA O MUNDIAL 2019 💯— Angola Basketball (@AngolanBasket) December 1, 2018
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019#FIBAWC 2019, here we come 🇦🇴🇦🇴🇦🇴
Dedicação, Suor e lá 💪💪#OBRIGADO (a) 🙏🏀🏀🏀#Angola #China2019 @FIBAWC @nbbfonline @ftbb_tunisie pic.twitter.com/ZrOdcrOs81
"Hopefully we will be working together the whole summer to see if more players can get involved with our national team," he said. "Players like Silvio [De Sousa], Bruno [Fernando], Edmir [Vitoriano] - who are currently playing college basketball in the USA - and other guys who aren't playing here in Angola could give us another dynamic.
Central to Angola's success, Moreira admitted, has been the team's head coach, Will Voigt.
"He's always been positive. It doesn't matter what is going on. He has been really important for us to win all three of these games. For him to be here with us, he is doing a great job," he explained. "Every window we always have new players coming in. He's doing a great with young players."
"PLAYING FOR MY NATIONAL TEAM HAS BEEN REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME. I GREW UP WATCHING MY NATIONAL TEAM PLAY. BACK THEN MY DREAM WAS ALWAYS TO PUT ON THIS JERSEY. IT'S NOT JUST FOR ME, IT'S FOR MY WHOLE FAMILY."
As Moreira looks back at Angola's entire Qualifiers campaign and in particular the last window at home, he stresses just how much his teammates and he felt there could be no letting their fellow countrymen and women down.
"We knew we needed to win two games to qualify. But, playing at home, we didn't want to lose a game in front of our home fans. We just wanted to give them one more win for the support they gave us throughout the Qualifiers," he said.
Moreira, who plays his club ball for PAOK in Greece's topflight, talked about the value of suiting up for his country.
"Playing for my national team has been really important to me. A lot of people don’t realize how important that is. I grew up watching my national team play," he recalled. "Back then, my dream was always to put on this jersey. It's not just for me, it's for my whole family.
"Having my name on the back and the name of my country on my chest, being able to do all that, is something special. Not a lot of people get the opportunity of representing their countries. I am blessed to be in this position of representing my country at a high level."
"AS AN AFRICAN, IT MEANS A LOT TO SEE THE QUALIFY PLAYERS AFRICAN TEAMS COULD TAKE TO THE WORLD CUP. THIS IS GOING TO BE A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE FOR AFRICAN TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW GOOD WE ARE. IT WILL BE A GAME-CHANGER."
Following their successful Qualifiers campaign, Angola became the third African country to qualify for the World Cup, joining reigning continental champions Tunisia and Nigeria. The final two spots for teams from Africa at the first-ever 32-team World Cup will be decided in February when Group F teams conclude their Qualifiers.
"If European teams sleep, they might get beaten by African teams. All African teams qualified for the World Cup - I think Senegal will qualify too - have really great players and are well coached," Moreira warned.
"As an African, it means a lot to see the quality players African teams could take to the World Cup. This is going to be a fantastic experience for Africans to show the world how good we are. It will be a game-changer," said the player who, as a 23-year-old, scored a career-high 38 points in a 91-83 win against Australia on the biggest stage.