Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt out of the loop

Although the host, Egypt’s Under-19 basketball team finished a lowly 12th in the World Cup, reports Abeer Anwar


Under-19 Basketball World Cup

Although it was the first time for Egypt to host the basketball U-19 World Cup, the team was unable to make use of this golden opportunity, finishing in a dismal 12th place.

In a nail-biting last-16 game Egypt entered the match against Argentina already believing they would lose. The players seemed aimless and were an easy prey to the Argentines, losing 72-67.

The young Pharaohs put in an impressive display in the first quarter, racing to a 24-13 lead.

However, Argentina gained the upper hand in the next three quarters to emerge winners.

Egypt’s best performer of the night was point guard Mohamed Youssef who scored 17 points and provided eight assists.

The team set up a last-16 meeting with Argentina after finishing third in their group with four points from a win over Puerto Rico and defeats by Lithuania and Germany.

Egypt’s best-ever finishes in the tournament was 11th at the 2009 and 2015 U-19 World Cups in New Zealand and Greece respectively. This year Egypt became the first African and Arab country to host the event.

Fans strongly criticised Egypt’s Spanish coach Juan Orenga for the poor state of the national team especially since he was brought in a year ago specifically for the U-19 tournament.

Under-19 Basketball World Cup

Orenga added nothing to the team. The three players who play abroad were not made full use of throughout the competition.

Orenga replied that he did his best and that the team had suffered a number of injuries that affected their performance. He said he was astonished at some games by the performance of some players which he added had completely changed on the court.

The competition’s organising committee director Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb thanked volunteers and participants for making the event a success. “I thank President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for attending the opening ceremony and everyone who helped making this event a success. The team tried its best to better its position but the players are still young and have a long way to go. After our success in organising such an event we will bid to host the girls U-19 World Cup in 2022.”

Canada was the surprise of the event. The black horse claimed its first ever FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup title after beating Italy 79-60 for the country’s first-ever men’s youth global title.

R J Barrett led the way with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds and four assists in the winning cause. Italy was paced by David Okeke who had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.

Earlier in the day, the US claimed third on the podium after getting the better of Spain 96-72.

Barrett, who was the tournament’s leading scorer with 21.6 points to go with 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He joined the All-Star Five along with Lorenzo Bucarelli (Italy), Abu Kigab (Canada), Tommaso Oxilia (Italy) and Payton Pritchard (US). The awards were provided by Tissot.   

Final standings of the 2017 FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup:
1- Canada
2- Italy
3- USA
4- Spain
5- Germany
6- Lithuania
7- France
8- Argentina
9- Puerto Rico
10- Japan
11- New Zealand
12- Egypt
13- Angola
14- Korea
15- Iran
16- Mali

Spain surprised all by taking fourth place. It last made the FIBA U-19 semi-finals in 1999, the year the Spaniards won their one and only U-19 title. The key to this year’s run to the top four has been simple — playing like a team.

“It’s great to be back,” said Spain’s Eric Vila before this year’s semi-final. “We worked so hard to be here right now. I have no words right now. We just want to enjoy this moment and then start thinking about Italy,” said Vila who had 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the win over Argentina.

When asked what the team had done to get five wins in five games, Vila said: “I’ll make it simple. We are just being a team. That’s the key to success and like a good team we are brothers. I love this team and we love each other. We will fight for each other.”

Since June 16, Spain had struggled in friendly games in the build-up to Cairo, losing against Germany, Italy, Lithuania, France and Canada. So, what changed?

“Nothing changed,” Vila insists. “We did a pretty good job in the preparations. We lost some games but I think we did a pretty good job getting ready. And now we are playing great. We changed our minds and we knew we could win the title. And that is what we are doing.”

“Italy is a great team of course. They are in the semi-finals. They are a really, really great team,” Vila said.

On the event’s organisation, Ashley Green, head of the competitions committee, said Egypt had “greatly succeeded” in hosting the event. “All the teams really enjoyed their stay in Egypt and the free-day programmes were fantastic as they had a chance to see the Great Pyramids and other Egyptian historical places.”

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