China beat Angola, but Paris 2024 looks out of reach

By Sun Xiaochen in Manila | | Updated: 2023-09-01 10:31
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Hu Jinqiu (Front R) of China vies with Angola's Dimitri Maconda at the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Manila, the Philippines, on Aug 31, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

A dramatic Thursday at the FIBA World Cup ended with mixed feelings for Team China after its hopes to qualify for Paris 2024 almost diminished despite a hard-fought first win.

Thanks to a huge contribution from bench players led by power forward Hu Jinqiu, the Chinese men's team pulled off its first win at the FIBA marquee event on Thursday afternoon as it beat Angola, 83-76, in a classification game following three earlier losses in the group phase.

The celebrating vibe, though, was damped cold just a few hours later after Asian neighbor Japan stunned Venezuela, 86-77, on Thursday night to secure its second win at the Cup, following a victory over group opponent Finland on Sunday, and stay one win ahead of China in Asian teams' race for the sole direct qualification berth for next year's Paris Olympics.

China is scheduled to take on the Philippines in its final classification game on Saturday at Manila's Araneta Coliseum. A victory over the host would tie China and Japan on their overall win-loss record should Japan lose its final game against Cape Verde on the same day.

However, Japan will still likely outrank China on the tournament's final standings by a huge lead in total game points difference (54 points by the end of Thursday) even if it concedes a loss on Saturday.

According to FIBA rules, the highest-ranked team among all six Asian contenders at the World Cup wins the only direct qualification ticket to Paris 2024.

Lebanon is the only other Asian team, trailing after Japan and China, that has registered a win with a 94-84 victory over Cote d'Ivoire on Thursday, but ranks bottom in the points difference with a tally of minus-90 points.

A third tournament win against Cape Verde, or China's loss to the Philippines, on Saturday will guarantee Japan earns the only Olympic qualification berth.

Despite playing against long odds, Chinese players have refused to give up and vowed to bring out their best for a fight of pride in their tournament finale.

"Whenever I step on the court in whatever game, I fight with 100 percent of my energy and leave it all on the court. We will still go all out in the next game no matter what," said Hu, a reserve forward who contributed a game-high 20 points on Thursday to help China outplay Angola.

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