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Jordan has hard task in upcoming basketball qualifiers

By Aline Bannayan - Feb 19,2022 - Last updated at Feb 19,2022

Jordan takes on Tunisia at the Arab Nations Basketball Championship on February 10 (Photo courtesy of Jordan Basketball Federation)

AMMAN — As Jordan’s national basketball team now switches focus to the Asian qualifiers for Basketball’s World Cup, the draw for the 30th FIBA Asia Cup 2021 has placed an added burden on the national squad.

The draw held in Jakarta, Indonesia over the weekend placed Jordan in Group A alongside a host Indonesia, titleholder Australia and Saudi Arabia. 

Group B includes China, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Bahrain, Group C includes Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan and Syria while Group D includes New Zealand, the Philippines, Lebanon and India.

The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 will be played in Jakarta, Indonesia, this year and has been rescheduled to July 12-24, right after the window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asia qualifiers.

Jordan moved to the FIBA Asia Cup — the continent’s leading basketball tournament — after an unbeaten run in qualifiers hosted in Amman. The team was then led by former national team star Marwan Ma’touq as head coach and the squad qualified alongside Kazakhstan from Group F to be one of 16 teams in the upcoming tournament.

Jordan’s best showing at the FIBA Asia Cup (previously called FIBA Asia Championship) was third in 2009 and runner-up in 2011 when they reached the final for the first time in the country’s history, but lost the chance of qualifying to the 2012 Olympic Games after losing the final 70-69 to China. Jordan then played the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but lost to Puerto Rico and Greece and was eliminated. 

The team is now preparing for Window 2 of Asian qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and are set to play Lebanon and Indonesia on February 24 and 27. Jordan is now second in Group C after winning 68-61 and losing 72-64 against Saudi Arabia in window 1 of the qualifiers as national sides play home and away games across three windows in Round 1. Lebanon currently lead the group with two wins.

Twelve teams will make it to Round 2, which will also have three windows running up to February 2023. From the sixteen Asian nations competing there will be seven representing the continent at the 2023 World Cup.

Jordan’s squad has an uphill battle after returning home from four consecutive defeats at the Arab Nations Basketball Championship which concluded in Dubai. Jordan lost to Libya, and the UAE before their form slightly improved despite losing its last two matches against Tunisia and Lebanon in the 24th edition of the championship which had only seven teams competing.

Lebanon won the title for the first time beating Tunisia 72-69 in a strongly contested match as Algeria beat Somalia to take third place. Egypt is a record 12-time champs, Tunisia won four times, Saudi twice, Jordan won in 2007 and was runner-up four times, while Algeria, Syria, Sudan, and Lebanon have all also won once each.

Jordan’s coach, former team star Wisam Al Sous, who played in the 2010 World Cup, acknowledged that the Arab Championship exposed lots of gaps, but noted it also had its positive sides. The coach, who admitted his team lacked the fighting spirit noted “we have to be realistic, the squad and preparations were not at its best”.

Sous underlined the absences of leading players had its toll, however, the team improved from one match to the other. Jordan’s squad was missing Zeid Abbas, Hashem Abbas and Mousa Awadi due to injury, as well as naturalised pro Dar Tucker, Mahmoud Abdeen and the towering Ahmad Dweiri, who plays in the Turkish League.

Jordan previously reached the World Cup in 2010 and 2019, becoming the first and only Jordanian team to actually reach a World Cup in a team sport alongside the junior men’s team in 1995.

The next World Cup will take place from August 25 to September 10, 2023 with seven nations from Asia and Oceania qualifying for the 32 country field. As event hosts, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines automatically qualify. Asia was last on the World Cup podium back in 1954 when the Philippines placed third.

The tournament will serve as a qualifier for the 2024 Summer Olympics, where the top two teams from each of the Americas and Europe, and the top team from each of Africa, Asia and Oceania, will qualify alongside the tournament’s host France.

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