South Sudan, Cape Verde shine at FIBA World Cup
South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, which became independent only 12 years ago. Cape Verde is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with less population than any country that has qualified for the Basketball World Cup.
It was a double dose of history for African basketball, with South Sudan defeating China 89-69 in Manila and Cape Verde defeating Venezuela 81-75 in Okinawa, Japan. The victories kept both teams in contention for places in the second round of the World Cup, and they will continue to fight hard for Africa's automatic qualification for next summer's Paris Olympics.
They were the two lowest-ranked countries in the 32-team field that started the tournament, and both countries qualified for the World Cup for the first time. According to FIBA, the sport's global governing body, South Sudan is ranked 62nd in the world. Cape Verde is ranked 64. And they both have a chance to be among the 16 teams still standing when the second round begins on Friday.
South Sudan's basketball program was largely started a few years ago by former NBA player Luol Deng, who was born in the country and raised in London after his father, a former Sudanese government official and former political prisoner, was granted asylum in Britain. Africa has long been considered the sleeping giant of global basketball and has seen great strides in investment in recent years, such as academies established by the NBA to identify and develop promising young players, the NBA-backed Basketball Africa League and Giants of Africa.
Both South Sudan and Cape Verde have one match remaining in the group stage, with South Sudan facing Serbia on Wednesday, while Cape Verde face Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and Slovenia. The best placed African team at this World Cup automatically qualifies for the Paris Olympics; So far, South Sudan, Cape Verde and Angola have a 1-1 record in the battle for this spot.
Later on Monday, Ivory Coast defeated Iran 71-69 in a Group G match in Jakarta.
Africa's winning streak began on Sunday when Angola defeated the hosts Philippines 80-70 in Group A.
In this World Cup, the best African team automatically qualifies for the Paris Olympics.