Tall Blacks welcome tough basketball World Cup draw
17 March, 2019, 08:13 | Author: Heidi Alvarez
Former NBA and Team USA star Kobe Bryant, now a World Cup ambassador, told the draw ceremony: "The USA has some really stiff competition". He was on hand in Shenzhen, China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup draw, which resulted in the US landing in Group 3 with Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2nd Round and will be placed into a new group with the two top teams from a separate group.
The tournament format is cut throat, with the top two from each Group advancing to the round of 16 and a shot at the medals, while those finishing third and fourth will play in classification 17 to 32 matches. For Canada to qualify directly to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 via the FIBA Basketball World Cup they must finish as one of the top two teams from the Americas zone.
The U.S.is the top-ranked team in the world and coach Gregg Popovich - taking over for Mike Krzyzewski, whose run as head coach ended with three Olympic gold medals and the last two World Cup championships as well - will head to China with a roster filled by National Basketball Association talent. Third-ranked France drew the Dominican Republic, Germany and Jordan as its early opponents.
The U.S. won the World Cup in 2010 and 2014.
"I believe it is going to be a great, competitive tournament", said the 40-year-old, who was given a rousing reception from the 8,000 crowd at the draw and had his name chanted on several occasions.
The 32-country World Cup is August 31 to September 15, with the medal games being held in Beijing.
"It's a greater sense of honour to be playing for your country", Bryant said.
Second-ranked Spain will meet Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia in the group stage.
Host China is in Group A along with Ivory Coast, Poland and Venezuela while Russia, Argentina, South Korea and Nigeria compose Group B.
Group H plays their preliminary round games in Dongguan, China.
There is an added incentive for teams at this World Cup, with seven spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics up for grabs. Second-round games will be played from Sept. 6-9, quarterfinal matchups are on Sept. 10-11, the semifinals are on Sept. 13 and the championship game is in Beijing on Sept. 15.
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