Five must-watch games to close the African Qualifiers
ALEXANDRIA/LUANDA - Before the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers comes to a close on February 26, there are four unmissable games to watch.
Since the qualifiers campaign for the five tickets on offer for African nations for this year's World Cup began in November 2021, we witnessed a number of breathtaking encounters with some going to the wire.
From the struggles of reigning African champions Tunisia; Angola being beaten on home soil for the first time in more than 30 years to the rising of South Sudan, we've witnessed it all.
Now, more than determining the next four African teams that will join Cote d'Ivoire in the 2023 showpiece in Indonesia, Japan and Philippines, these five games are tipped as the most important in the African Qualifiers process, and here is why.
SOUTH SUDAN v SENEGAL (Alexandria, February 24, 2023)
Very few expected South Sudan to become the threat that it turned out in the African Qualifiers.
When South Sudan and Senegal met last August, the former were one of the few unbeaten teams - alongside already-qualified Cote d'Ivoire - but in a turn of events, Senegal came up stronger to relaunch their World Cup aspirations.
Senegal's 69-66 victory over South Sudan last August meant that South Sudan - despite wining the following two games - would need to wait a little longer to find out whether or not they will qualify for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
If South Sudan overcome Senegal on February 24, the newest African country will qualify for their first-ever World Cup in their first attempt.
If Senegal beat South Sudan, the Lions will boost their World Cup chances.
TUNISIA v EGYPT (Alexandria, February 24, 2023)
Any Tunisia v Egypt matchup never disappoints for its unpredictability and intensity, and the February 24 encounter won't be any different.
Egypt dared to end Tunisia's home unbeaten run last August to boost their World Cup aspirations while Tunisia looked helpless.
With a squad comprising mostly of locally-based players, Egypt are one win away from qualifying for their first World Cup since 2014. Egypt will qualify if they beat Tunisia and South Sudan beat Senegal.
Playing in front of their home fans in Alexandria may be a positive factor for Egypt, but Tunisians, through team's captain Makram Ben Romdhane, insist, it's not over until it's over.
SENEGAL v TUNISIA (Alexandria, February 25, 2023)
Another must-win encounter for both Senegal and Tunisia.
But the last time these two sides faced off in the Tunisian coastal city of Monastir last August, Senegal deepened Tunisia's crises, winning 73-63.
Historically, one of the most anticipated encounters in African basketball, this Senegal v Tunisia is a must-watch match not only for the talent available on both sides, but also, for what it means in terms of World Cup aspirations.
ANGOLA v CAPE VERDE (Luanda, February 25, 2023)
There's no doubts that the addition of seven-footer Walter Tavares has put Cape Verde in a position they have never been before.
The Real Madrid center could be a key factor for the islanders who would need as many wins as possible to stay in contention for a World Cup ticket.
Cape Verde and Angola share a 1-1 record dating back to the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket, and although former African champions Angola play in front of their home fans, this is anybody's game.
SOUTH SUDAN v EGYPT (Alexandria, February 26, 2023)
High flying South Sudan outscored Egypt 85-65 last August in Monastir, but now they face a stiffer test in Alexandria.
By the time these two teams meet on February 26, we might have had a clearer picture of the teams qualified for the 2023 World Cup. Will this be an encounter for bragging rights? Time will tell.