SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - For the first time in the history of the game, five national teams from Africa will qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The move is part of FIBA’s new competition system, which will come into effect in November. It increases the number of participating teams in the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 24 to 32, with Africa being allocated five places instead of three as it had been up until 2014.
So, which African teams will qualify for China 2019?
And, if we take a closer look at the NIKE FIBA Africa Rankings, the current top five African nations including Nigeria, Tunisia, Angola, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire seem to be realistic contenders to qualify for the second FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in East Asia since Japan 2006.
With that being said and judging by the talented players at disposal of some countries, I choose Egypt, Tunisia, Angola, Senegal and Nigeria (with Mali and Cameroon set as potential contenders) as the teams in a stronger position to qualify for China 2019.
And, here are the reasons I chose those five teams:
It's been over three decades since the Pharaohs last won an African championship. However, the rising number of Egyptian players enrolling at USA college basketball ranks in recent years, not only it give them a chance of becoming better basketball players, but it also enhances Egypt's chances of competing at the highest level.
Just take a look at how the North Africans competed against eventual FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 finalist Serbia.
Tunisia's journey to their first-ever African title in 2011 began a few months earlier at FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 in Turkey. Tunisia aren't the number two team on the continent of Africa by accident. They are competitors; they know the taste of playing on the world stage, and more importantly, the country's basketball federation is one of the most active in Africa.
Although Angola are currently experiencing a generational transition of players, this country lives and breathes basketball like very few in Africa. Having missed out on the last two editions of the Olympic Games, Angola look at the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup as a way to compete with the best in the world.
The famously quote by the former USA and Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich - "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion" - applies perfectly to Nigeria.
The African champions are here to stay, and whether they keep the Rio Olympics roster or not, they are fairly a top-5 team in Africa.
Two months ago, during the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 qualifiers, Senegal reminded Africa about the tough atmosphere of playing in Dakar. They bounced back from a 1-2 mark in the first leg of the regional qualifier in Mali to close the competition with a 3-0 at home. Under FIBA's new system, national teams will play home and away games.
By Julio Chitunda for FIBA.com