Spain’s quest for back-to-back FIBA World Cup titles will not come easy
While the champion of this year’s FIBA World Cup will be crowned in Manila, some of the most important preliminary games are going to be held in Jakarta where a couple of heavyweights are slated to kick off their title bid.
Spain, the winner of the last World Cup back in 2019 and the current world number one, is one of those teams whose road to the title goes through Indonesia. They were drawn into Group G with Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, and Iran.
The Spaniards should have no trouble emerging on top of this group as no other team in this group can match their combination of talent and experience. Willy and Juancho Hernangomez will once again be at the forefront for a Spain team that is fresh off winning the 2022 Eurobasket last summer.
They will be joined by fellow active NBA players Santi Aldama of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Usman Garuba in what promises to be one of the deepest frontcourt rotations in this year’s World Cup. Over in the backcourt, Spain will rely on longtime national team members Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull as 2019 FIBA World Cup Most Valuable Player Ricky Rubio and naturalized point guard Lorenzo Brown are unavailable.
Another Group G team to watch is Brazil who realistically have a chance to pull off an upset over Spain. This South American team is bannered by ex-NBA players Bruno Caboclo, Marcelinho Huertas, Raul Neto, and Cristiano Felicio. They recently turned heads when they upset Australia, the bronze medal winner in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in a friendly match held in preparation for next week’s festivities.
The real challenge for Spain in Jakarta though will come in the second round where the top two teams from Groups G and H face off in Group L.
Group H has been dubbed this year’s “Group of Death” as it has two legitimate contenders in Canada and France together with Latvia and Lebanon.
Canada is fielding its most talented team in its history for this World Cup led by NBA All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The status of his backcourt partner Jamal Murray, who recently won the NBA championship with the Denver Nuggets, remains uncertain, yet they still boast of a formidable roster without him.
The other Canadian NBA players suiting up are RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Lu Dort, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Oshae Brissett, and Cory Joseph. With these players on board, Canada has what is arguably the deepest roster in this tournament besides the United States.
Meanwhile, France still has unfinished business on the international stage as they have finished third in the last two editions of the World Cup and also took home the silver medal in the Olympics held two years ago. As usual, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is set to backstop France’s defense and will be joined by his longtime teammates Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, and Nando de Colo.
France always has a legitimate chance to take home the gold medal with Gobert manning the middle and this year’s World Cup is no different. Like their longtime rival Spain, this marks the third consecutive summer that this French team will be playing together (Olympics in 2021, Eurobasket in 2022) and this continuity is sure to provide them with a distinct advantage.
Canada and France are expected to emerge from Group H and enter Group L which will provide fans in Jakarta with medal round-level basketball. Only two of Spain, Canada, and France can emerge from Jakarta and enter the quarterfinals in Manila which will only make the Group L games even more crucial.
Both Canada and France are hoping for their first ever taste of gold while Spain is looking to become just the fourth country in history to win back-to-back World Cups. These three teams are looking to make history in their own right in this tournament, but they must first make it out of Jakarta before entertaining their dream of winning it all.