2023 FIBA World Cup Recap: Germany takes gold; Japan goes to Paris

September 11, 2023

6 mins

2023 FIBA World Cup Recap: Germany takes gold; Japan goes to Paris
2023 FIBA World Cup Recap: Germany takes gold; Japan goes to Paris

Written by EASL

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Germany defeats Serbia for gold while Japan qualifies for 2024 Summer Olympics

Excitement. Heartbreaks. Drama. Upsets. Four words that define the 2023 FIBA World Cup that took place in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia the past two weeks. Coming out on top of the 32 competing teams, Germany defeated Serbia in an epic final to win their first FIBA World Cup title since entering the tournament in 1986.

Japan finished as the top Asian team, qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics in the process. While Japan participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with an automatic spot as a host nation, this marks the first time in 48 years that they have qualified on the court. The last time was for the 1976 Montreal Summer Games.

How did the East Asia teams fare?

China

Team Dragons had high expectations coming into the World Cup, having naturalized NBA pro and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson just weeks before the tournament. However, they got off to a rough start, falling to Serbia by 42 points. Anderson went 0-for-9 from the field, going scoreless in his national team debut.

China’s tournament went from bad to worse when they fell to World Cup debutants South Sudan by 20 points, giving the African team their first-ever win in tournament play. China finished the First Round with a loss to Puerto Rico.

Entering the 17-32 Classification Round, China beat Angola in a must-win game. But in the final game of the round, they lost to co-hosts Philippines by 21 points, finishing the tournament with a disappointing 1-4 record.

Among the 32 teams, China finished 29th, their worst finish in FIBA World Cup and World Championship play.

Photo courtesy of FIBA.basketball

Japan

Japan came into the World Cup as one of the shortest teams, with an average height of 192 centimeters. But that didn’t sway their hopes of making an impact.

“We are pretty short by international standards,” said Japan captain and Chiba Jets guard Yuki Togashi, who will be playing in the EASL 2023-24 season. “We cannot win if we play the same way as our rivals.”

The country has seen growth in basketball in recent years. The men’s team hired head coach Tom Hovasse, who led the women’s team to a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as winning gold in both the 2017 and 2019 FIBA Asia Cup.

Japan stumbled out of the gate on Gameday 1, falling early to the eventual champions Germany. But on Gameday 2, Japan pulled off a historic win against Finland, marking the country’s first-ever victory against a European opponent in the World Cup and their first win at the tournament since 2006. They were the only Asian team to pull off a victory in the First Round.

In the Classification Round, Japan won both their games, against Venezuela and Cape Verde, closing the tournament with a 3-and-2 record, their best finish at the World Cup since 1967 in Uruguay.

As the only Asian team with three victories, Japan booked their spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics, the first time in 48 years they have qualified on the court for the Summer Games.

“I think we showed the world what we can do,” Hovasse said after the game against Cape Verde. “Now we’re on everybody’s radar, we’re on everybody’s maps. That’s a big step.”

Photo courtesy of FIBA.basketball

Philippines

The co-hosts came into the tournament as one of the favorites to secure the lone Asian Olympic berth after naturalizing former NBA Sixth Man of the Year and Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson. On Gameday 1, however, they were outmatched by NBA All-Star and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns as they fell to Dominican Republic by six.

In a must-win game against Angola, the Gilas’ shooting fell apart. They scored just 42.9 percent from the field and lost to the African side by 10 points. The co-hosts then lost to Italy to finish last in Group A.

In the 17-32 Classification Round, the Philippines, ranked 40th in the FIBA rankings, faced the 62nd-ranked South Sudan. Poor shooting was their kryptonite again, going 35.1 percent from the field as they fell to the African side by 19 points.

In a consolation game against East Asian rivals China, the Gilas’ shooting finally found life, as the team combined to score 48.6 percent from the field and secure a 96-75 win. The Philippines finished the tournament ranked 24th, giving themselves a chance to qualify for the Olympics through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Courtesy of FIBA.basketball

Germany wins first-ever World Cup

On the other side of the field, the tournament saw USA, Germany, Canada and Serbia in the final four. Germany pulled off an incredible upset against tournament favorites USA in the semifinals, using team basketball to beat the 12-time medalists 113-111.

On the other side of the bracket, Serbia outmatched Canada with their size and efficient shooting. They outrebounded the Canadians 33-22 while shooting 62.1 percent from the field, ultimately taking down the first-time semifinalists 95-86.

In the Third-Place Game, Canada was ahead by three in the dying seconds of the game, but Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges hit a desperation corner three with 0.6 seconds left to send the game into overtime. The Canadian star duo of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dillon Brooks took over in the extra frame, scoring 12 of Canada’s 16 points in overtime to win their first-ever World Cup medal. Team USA's medal drought continues, with their last coming at the World Cup in 2014.

Canada Head Coach Jordi Fernández was ecstatic after leading his side to a bronze medal: “This team was amazing, special. It’s the beginning of something that’s going to last for a long time. From the first guy, all 12 guys came in and worked every day since August 1. They got better at least one percent every day, and they built the identity that we’ve just shown. We can do great things.”

In the Final, Germany and Serbia were evenly matched in the first half and the teams were tied at 47 at halftime. Germany, the only undefeated team going into the Final, pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Serbia by 12 points. Serbian efforts at mounting a comeback ultimately fell short and Germany secured their first-ever World Cup title.

Germany’s captain and Toronto Raptors guard Dennis Schroder was named MVP of the Tournament.

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