There are always surprising defeats in international competition, but the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup was full of them. After all of the dust settled in the group stages, there were three giants that did not even manage to enter the group stages.
The first domino to fall was France, who came away with the silver medal in the last Olympics. Perhaps the most surprising of the eliminations, their squad included NBA players Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier, and they didn’t even make it past the preliminary rounds after going 1-2 in Group H. After narrowly defeating Lebanon 85-79 in their first game, they went on to lose 88-86 to Latvia and were then blown out 95-65 by Canada. That left France on the outside looking in, unable to even compete for a quarterfinal spot in the subsequent group round.
Australia, who were the Olympic Bronze medalists, then found themselves eliminated from title contention after losing 91-80 to Slovenia on September 1. Luka Doncic and his teammates got a small measure of revenge in that game as they were also the team that the Boomers faced for the bronze medal in Japan. That defeat made Australia’s final win against Georgia meaningless, as their 100-84 win still didn’t give them enough points to make it to the quarterfinals. It was a surprising exit especially because their team was chock-full of NBA talent including Josh Giddey, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Josh Green and Matthias Thybulle.
Spain, the defending champions from 2019, also found themselves eliminated on the final game of the group stages. After losing to Latvia 74-69, coupled with Canada losing 69-65 to Brazil during their September 1 games, a winner-takes-all match was set up, which the Canadians narrowly won 88-85 thanks to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks and RJ Barrett combining for 68 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
One a side note, Argentina, the final member of the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup, didn’t even make it to this year’s tournament after blowing a 17-point lead to the Dominican Republic in February.
Even with such giants out of the knockout stages, it’s worth noting that there are still some mouth-watering games coming up. The first day of the quarterfinals sees Lithuania and Serbia start things off, followed by Team USA and Italy doing battle. The second day is going to be even more competitive, as Germany will take on Latvia, followed by Canada and Slovenia doing battle.