MAPUTO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019) - By the time Mozambique's Pio Matos found out the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers 2019 draw last Sunday, he had a sense of deja vu.
Mozambique had been drawn in Group D of the African Qualifiers along with Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and a team to be determined by FIBA Africa.
Now that these three teams are set to compete for one of the five tickets on offer for African teams for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, Mozambique must instil a tougher approach to the games, says Matos who became his country's second leading scorer (13.8 points per game) in Tunisia behind his twin brother Augusto Matos.
"We know those teams well, it's all about stepping on the floor with self-confidence and be prepared to play our best game," the Ferroviario de Maputo shooting guard explained to FIBA.com.
Mozambique will open their Group D campaign, facing Cote d'Ivoire on 23 February 2018.
"If we organise one of the first-round tournaments, no doubt that our chances of qualifying are a lot bigger because Mozambique is basketball-loving country, and our fans will show up to support us" noted the former MVP of Mozambique's national championship.
"We respect those teams, we know we are the underdogs but we have a new team filled with talented kids capable of competing. If we stay injury-free throughout the qualifiers, wherever the qualifier might be, we'll be ready to make history," Matos said.
The link below illustrates Matos' level of confidence. Back in 2015, as Mozambique and Morocco were tied at 78-78 with 29 seconds remaining, Matos hit a pull-up three-pointer that propelled Mozambique to an 85-82 victory.
Unlike their women's counterpart, Mozambique men's team have never qualified for a world stage competition. Three years ago, Mozambique women's team became the first-ever in the history of the country to qualify for a team sports world event.
"Men's basketball in Africa is really tough," the 26-year-old explained. "We felt proud of our sisters, now we'll take our chances. It will be difficult for us to qualify [for China 2019] because teams like Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire are title contenders, but we won't back down easily."