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Shadow cast on China's bid to defend Asian basketball champion

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-01 13:47

MANILA - Looking for a record 16th gold medal, the Chinese team doesn't seem to have a bright future to defend their reigning position in Asia at the 27th FIBA Asian Men's Basketball Championship in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila from Aug 1 to 11.

Fifteen top basketball teams of Asia will fight for three berths to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. China, South Korea and Iran, who have won 19 out of the 26 gold medals in the previous events, are in Group C with Malaysia, who almost definitely will miss the second round.

The defending champion will start their campaign with a match against arch-rival South Korea, who finished third in Wuhan 2011. China have met their East Asian neighbor for 16 times at Asian Championships and only lost twice.

Former NBA player Yi Jianlian's appearance is still doubtful as the center strained thigh muscle in the training just before the tournament and might not be able to perform his best until the end of the group stage.

China will finish their preliminary round after their final group match against Iran, who thrashed China 70-52 in the final of 2009 in Tianjin. As the results in preliminary round will also be counted in the second round, China might meet host Philippines before the final if they don't take the first place in the group.

Iran are still among the hot favorites for the title with Hamed Haddadi, Samad Bahrami and Mahdi Kamrani in sublime form while Hamed Afagh and Oshin Sahakian also have shown glimpses of their brilliance.

Host Philippines opted to join group A with Chinese Taipei, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This is the first time that the Philippines will host the FIBA Asia Tournament since 1973, when it was still known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship.

Things have changed a lot since the Philippines won the championship in 1973, as China has developed into the most dominant team in the region, winning 15 titles so far. But the host, who won second most titles after China, has given indication of renaissance as they finished fourth in 2011.

Jordan surely are not the same team that went all the way to the gold medal match in Wuhan two years ago. Key players like Osama Daghles, Rasheim Wright and Zaid Abbas all missed the tournament and naturalized player Jimmy Baxter will be Jordan's last hope.

Chinese Taipei too will bring naturalized player Quincy Davis to counter Philippines' Marcus Douthit. Lin Chih-Chieh showed terrific form in leading Chinese Taipei to a second place finish in front of a home crowd at the 35th William Jones Cup.

Japan, Qatar and Hong Kong, China of Group B received a pleasant surprise after Lebanon was suspended by FIBA, which ensures all three team places in the second round.

In Group D, Kazakhstan, who had a very creditable fourth in Tokushima, Japan in 2007, is the most accomplished.

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