Games to look forward to in Asian Qualifiers’ final stretch
BEIRUT (Lebanon) – There should be no shortage of excitement come Window 6 of the FIBA World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers before month’s end.
This marks the final stage of a lengthy road to the global hoops conclave, and expect some teams to go full throttle as only two tickets to the August 25-September 10 festivities remain up for grabs.
Take a look at some of the games to watch out for in the upcoming window taking place on February 23-27.
JAPAN VS IRAN
23 February 2023
Expect Iran to come out with fire in their eyes as they would need no less than a victory against Japan to put one foot into the World Cup.
But surely, it would be easier said than done. They will have to do so on the road versus a team that’s already qualified as they are among the hosts of the cagefest together with the Philippines and Indonesia.
Team Melli, furthermore, are up against an Akatsuki side out for revenge for what happened in last year’s Asia Cup in Jakarta.
Japan back then tried to stretch their win streak to three against Iran — a streak that dated back to the World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers — only to end up disappointed as they suffered an 88-76 loss in the group stage.
NEW ZEALAND VS SAUDI ARABIA
24 February 2023
Saudi Arabia no longer have full control of their World Cup chances, but can still fan whatever hope there is should they stun New Zealand in Christchurch.
It may appear as a task too tall for the West Asian side given that the Tall Blacks have been impressive in the Qualifiers thus far — they’ve already booked a spot with a 6-2 record — but KSA surely aren’t backing down.
That’s because they already have Mohammed Alsuwailem back in tow, fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered back in February last year.
The 6-foot-10 slotman has been solid since his return, proof of which was his exploits in the West Asia Super League where he’s averaging 18.0 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks for Al Hilal.
PHILIPPINES VS LEBANON
24 February 2023
Both teams are already bound for the World Cup, but the Philippines are surely out to give Asia Cup runners-up Lebanon a dose of their own medicine.
It could be recalled that the Cedars dealt the Jordan Clarkson-led Gilas a tough 85-81 defeat at Zouk Mikael back in Window 4, and the latter definitely would want to flip the script as they cross paths in their own playground this time.
The Philippine team won’t have the NBA cager in town for Window 6 but they’re likely to parade local hero Justin Brownlee, someone who’s all too familiar with their Lebanese counterparts as he played for Al Riyadi in 2019.
And a wild crowd is expected to show up at the cavernous Philippine Arena to back the home team, who’s hoping for the fans to be as raucous as the ones who supported their foes at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex.
CHINA VS IRAN
26 February 2023
Tsuen Wan Stadium
Five windows of the Qualifiers have passed yet contenders Iran and China only met once, and that’s something the former would want to forget.
Team Melli (6-4) suffered an 81-72 defeat at the hands of Team Dragon (8-2). Worse, they lost on their own turf — at the Azadi Basketball Hall in Tehran.
Now, they’ll be the one visiting the World Cup-bound team at the Tsuen Wan Stadium in Hong Kong, out for payback and, more importantly, for a victory to boost their chances of qualifying for the quadrennial showpiece.
As evidence of how excited the fans are for this game, the tickets were already sold out within 15 minutes after they were publicly made available for purchase.
PHILIPPINES VS JORDAN
27 February 2023
If there’s one who sees this matchup with extreme importance, it should be Jordan as they would need to win to keep their World Cup chances alive.
The Falcons (4-4) are one of the many teams whose fate no longer lies in their own hands, but it’s not just that fact alone that pushes the squad to top Gilas.
Jordan got beaten by the Philippines, 66-74, in their own stomping grounds at the Prince Hamza Sport Hall in Amman in the previous window.