SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Three months on, and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers are back this week, with eight national teams split into Groups B and D prepared to compete for a place at China 2019.
Back in November, Angola and Tunisia opened their World Cup African Qualifiers campaigns in style by winning all their three games each, and as a result, they currently top Groups A and C, respectively.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
This week's first-leg of Groups B and D of the African Qualifiers marks the second of six windows of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers. And in order to secure a place in the 12-team second-round in the African Qualifiers, teams should finish in the top-three on their groups. So, a good start this week in Maputo and Bamako could pave way for a place at the 32-team FIBA's flagship event taking place in China from August 31-September 15, 2019.
HOW TO WATCH THE AFRICAN QUALIFIERS
All 24 games will be broadcast on Live Basketball.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Senegal may head to Maputo without Gorgui Dieng and Maurice Ndour, but the No. four team in Africa will count on seven players from last year's FIBA AfroBasket, including Hamady Ndiaye, Mouhammad Faye, and Youssoufa Ndiaye - the guy who shattered a backboard against Nigeria at FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
Runners-up at FIBA, Nigeria are "richly blessed with lots of talented players who are willing to represent the country," as head coach Alex Nwora recently said. The former African champions have announced an 18-player preliminary squad, which includes their top three scorers from last year's AfroBasket in the form MVP Ike Diogu, Ikenna Iroegbu, and Ikechukwu Nwamu.
WHO COACHES WHO
While most teams involved in this week's African Qualifiers kept their coaching staff from last year's FIBA AfroBasket, Mali signed Frenchman Remi Giuitta, Senegal appointed former international Abdourahmane Ndiaye while Anthony Miller replaced Hugues Occansey at the helm of Cote d'Ivoire.
Other coaches include Spaniard Inaki Garcia (Mozambique), Ulrich Marida (CAF), Mandi Juruy (Uganda), Alex Nwora (Nigeria), and Moise Mutokambali (Rwanda).
Let the battle begin.
By Julio Chitunda For FIBA.com