Basketball World Cup: What you need to know

Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi
Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018

The 19th edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup tips off on 25 August.

The 32 participating teams will play in 92 games played over 16 days with the Naismith Trophy to be lifted by the winners on 10 September.

Here is what you need to know.

Where will the World Cup be played?

For the first time the World Cup will be held in more than one country, with the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia awarded joint hosting rights.

It will be the first World Cup for Indonesia, and the second to be hosted in both the Philippines and Japan.

Manila gets the bulk of the group games as well as the final tournament phase from the quarter-finals onwards.

Okinawa and Jakarta both host two groups in the first round and one group each in the second round.


What is the format for the tournament?

The 32 qualified teams have been sorted into eight groups of four. Every team plays against the three other teams in their group.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the next group phase in the second round. The bottom two teams from each group will play the Classification Round for places 17-32.

The 16 remaining teams that make it into the second round will be sorted into four groups of four. Every team plays against the two teams in their group that they did not face in the First Round.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for Final Phase. The bottom two teams from each group are eliminated and ranked in places ninth through 16th.

The final phase includes the quarterfinals, classification matches for fifth to eighth places, semifinals and medal matches.

What are the Tall Blacks’ chances?

Tall Blacks player Isaac Fotu

Tall Black Isaac Fotu against Greece in the 2019 World Cup.
Photo: Photosport

The Tall Blacks are in one of the toughest groups of the tournament which includes two top-10 sides.

New Zealand are ranked 26th in the world, with 13 qualified countries ranked lower.

Playing in basketball-mad Manila, the Tall Blacks will open their campaign against world number 2 USA, followed by Jordan a country ranked seven places lower than New Zealand but who beat an under-strength Tall Blacks during qualification for this World Cup.

The Tall Blacks will round out the group stage with a grudge game against world number 9 Greece who won a close game 103-97 at the 2019 edition of the World Cup.

This World Cup will be Pero Cameron’s first major tournament in charge after he took on the head coach role in 2019.

Cameron was a key player in the New Zealand team that claimed the Tall Blacks’ best ever finish of fourth place in 2002 and now he’ll be pushing his side to improve on a 19th place at the last World Cup in China and get past the round of 16 for the first time in 21 years.

Forward Pero Cameron of  New Zealand during their game with Germany at the RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN, USA during the World Basketball Championships 2002. 
Pic: Photosport/ AJ Mast/Icon SMI

Pero Cameron against Germany at the 2002 World Championship
Photo: AJ Mast

Although New Zealand finished below their expectations in 2019, the Tall Blacks led the entire competition with 99.4 PPG (Points Per Game) for the first time – proving scoring isn’t a problem for the New Zealanders who are often shorter than their opposition.

Despite the high profile retirements of Tom Abercrombie and Rob Loe since the last global tournament and New Zealand’s only NBA player Steven Adams being unavailable, there are five players – Finn Delany, Isaac Fotu, Jordan Ngatai, Shea Ili and Tohi Smith-Milner – that have played in prior World Cups and will want to show what they are capable of against some of the bigger basketball nations.

Who are the contenders?

Spain celebrate at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Beijing.

Spain celebrate at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Beijing.
Photo: AFP


The reigning world champions and world number 1 side Spain will be a missing a key player but are still likely to go deep into the tournament.

With nine wins and one loss during the qualifying rounds for the World Cup, Spain sealed a berth for their title defence early.

Despite the dominant qualification record the champions were challenged with a number of close finishes and will be battle hardened for the showpiece event.

The 2019 tournament MVP Ricky Rubio will miss this World Cup as he takes a mental health break from professional basketball, but Spain can still call on two-time world champion Rudy Fernandez and EuroBasket 2022 stars, brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangomez to headline a young squad which includes seven players with NBA experience.

Should Spain win in the quarter-finals (as they did in 2006 and 2019) history suggests they will go all the way to lift the trophy again.

Spain are grouped with Ivory Coast, Brazil and Iran and will be based in Jakarta, Indonesia for the early stages of the tournament.


Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards is one of the stars of a young USA roster.
Photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

The world number 2 USA have never missed a World Cup and have won five titles. No other country has collected more.

However, the reigning Olympic champions finished outside the medals at the last World Cup with a seventh place – their worst finish ever.

USA Basketball is sending one of its least experienced rosters ever for a major international competition to the Philippines where they will meet New Zealand, Greece and Jordan in Group C.

None of the 12 have ever played for the USA at the senior level before but have all played in the NBA.

The team is coached by the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr who takes over for his first World Cup in charge after being an assistant coach at the 2019 tournament.

Despite the blip in 2019, the USA have gone home with a medal in eight of the last 10 editions of the World Cup, including as champions in 1986, 1994, 2010 and 2014 and will be looking to get back on the podium again this year.


22nd August 2019; Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; International Basketball, United States of America versus Australia Boomers; Patty Mills of Australia dribbles the ball past Donovan Mitchell of USA - Editorial Use Only.

Patty Mills will be back with the Boomers for a third World Cup.
Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

The Australian Boomers recorded their best ever World Cup finish in 2019 when they advanced to the semi-finals for the first time and finished in fourth place.

The world number 3 side for this year’s World Cup is stacked with NBA players and coach Brian Goorjian indicated this was the toughest squad selection during his time in the role.

For the first time Australia have 10 current NBA players in their squad, including Atlanta Hawks guard Patty Mills who starred in the playoff stages of the last World Cup.

Australia have played 12 of the past 13 World Cups and in the 19th edition of the tournament will be based in Japan and face the hosts, Finland and Germany in Group E.

The bronze medalists from the Tokyo Olympics have had heartbreak at previous World Cups losing in the round of 16 in 2006, 2010 and 2014 before having a breakout performance in China four years ago.

With a strong squad the Boomers will be targeting their first World Cup medal.


Nicolas Batum (R)
Evan Fournier (L) France.

France’s Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum.
Photo: SEBASTIEN Meunier / panoramic

France are considered one of the favourites to win the World Cup for the first time in 2023.

Currently ranked fifth in the world, France have finished the last two World Cups in the bronze medal position and could see this as the year to make the final of the tournament.

Having also reached the Olympic gold medal game in Tokyo and the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket final Les Bleus have a strong squad that knows what it takes at the business end of competitions.

Coach Vincent Collet will have had a tough time deciding who to leave out of his 12-man roster that has depth at every position.

Included in the World Cup squad are seven players from the team that lost the Olympic final to USA – Nando De Colo, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Frank Ntilikina, Guerschon Yabusele and Mustapha Fall.

France’s highest ranked group opponent is world number 15 Canada, they will also face Latvia and Lebanon in the early stages of the tournament in Indonesia.

Which other countries qualified?

Angola, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Slovenia, South Sudan and Venezuela.

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