MANILA, Philippines – After defeating Finland, Japan wins the FIBA World Cup for the first time in 17 years and closes in on the Paris Olympics spot reserved for the top Asian team. Japan became the first Asian team to secure a victory in the FIBA World Cup, making it even more difficult for Gilas Pilipinas to qualify for the highly sought-after Paris Games.
After an unexpected 98-88 victory over Finland in Group E on August 27 in Okinawa, Japan recorded its first World Cup victory in 17 years and closed in on the Olympic spot reserved for the highest-placed Asian team.
The Akatsuki also made history by defeating a European opponent for the first time since the 2006 competition, when China narrowly defeated Slovenia and Lebanon defeated France.
Japan, the lowest-ranked team in Group E at No. 36 globally, relied on consistent play from naturalized players Josh Hawkinson and Yuki Kawamura to defeat Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz and the No. 24 Wolf Pack.
Hawkinson scored 28 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for a huge double-double, while Kawamura scored 25 points on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc while dishing out 9 assists.
Japan (1-1) has the inside road for an Olympic spot despite facing off against the No. 3 team in the world, Australia, in its last group stage match. This is because the other five Asian countries all failed to win.
After a demoralizing 80-70 loss to Angola, the Philippines dropped to 0-2 in Group A; Lebanon was ousted from the tournament in Group H; China, Jordan, and Iran all had equal 0-1 records.
However, according to Chot Reyes, the head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, they should concentrate on the things they can control, especially their final group stage match against Italy on Tuesday, August 29.
The Filipinos’ chances of competing at the Olympics will increase with a significant victory over the No. 10-ranked Azzurri, as well as if they are able to move on to the second round.
Reyes highlighted the team’s wish for Gilas Pilipinas to win their final match, which would produce a tie, and for Japan to lose their final game. He made the observation that the final result might be influenced by the outcomes of other games, suggesting that the team’s control over the circumstance is constrained. Reyes highlighted that the forthcoming game is still the team’s major priority and that they cannot afford to be sidetracked by outside influences.
Both Italy and the Philippines are coming off losses, with the Azzurri suffering a shocking 87-82 loss to the Dominican Republic, who are currently leading Group A.
In potentially winning matches, China takes on South Sudan, Jordan takes on New Zealand, and Iran confronts Ivory Coast.