Greece’s double-overtime loss to Croatia compounded a problem that has been growing for FIBA since the continental tournament season began. Who gets the four wildcards?
Who says you can’t get too much of a good thing? FIBA has four World Cup wildcard slots to award and plenty of willing suitors. Whatever happens, somebody is going to be upset. The headache for FIBA began at the FIBA Asia Championship where China, went out in the quarter finals to Chinese Taipei. That made on of the big draws in world basketball and immediate front runner for a wildcard spot.
Fast forward a few weeks to the FIBA AfroBasket and two of last year’s Olympic participants, Nigeria and Tunisia, failed to secure a bid for the World Cup. As it stood there was actually a reasonable chance that one of these sides would get a wildcard. There just needed to be no major upsets in the Tournament of the Americas or EuroBasket.
Yeah about that. Brazil went 0-4 in Venezuela, leaving the 2016 Olympic hosts in need of a wildcard to make the World Cup. Canada, with a NBA stacked roster, almost did FIBA a solid. The Maple Leaf nation looked on course to secure an automatic spot but lost its last two games to come fifth, one place short of an automatic ticket to Spain next year. So far so crazy but it took EuroBasket to turn this into a full-on migraine.
The first round saw Germany, Russia, and Turkey, all fall. Turkey hosted the last World Cup and Turkish companies, Beko and Turkish Airlines most notably, provide major sponsorship to the sport in Europe. Russia is Russia and Germany’s Bundesliga has brass across the world excited by its development. Things were pretty bad as they stood before Monday. Then Greece lost in double overtime to Croatia, ending their involvement in EuroBasket. With that defeat, the Greeks joined the list of teams FIBA would like in the World Cup that failed to qualify automatically. Let’s go through these teams in the order they fell to see their shot at earning a reprieve.
China - A huge market with an ailing national team. In truth it would take something extraordinary for China not to get a bid. They can book their flights.
Tunisia - Failed to make it out of the last 16 in AfroBasket. No hope.
Nigeria - Were it any other year I’d give them a legitimate shot but they are at the back of a long, long, queue.
Brazil - Considering they sent a weak line-up to Venezuela, there’s a good chance they knew they were in Spain before flopping violently at FIBA Americas.
Canada - Before Venezuela all Canada looked to need for a wildcard was to assure FIBA that Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins would travel to Spain. Now even probably won’t be enough. Four teams from in and around North America will be in Spain and there’s a glut of European teams to fill.
Germany - FIBA would love to give them a wildcard given the sport’s development in Deutschland. Tough to see them getting it.
Russia - Could the Russians actually miss out? Crazier things have happened. They are in the discussion but no locks by any means.
Turkey - They had better hope that money (the clean type before you kill me in the comments) talks an awful lot. Turkey and Turkish business has done a lot to make FIBA happy. They may feel they’re owed a wildcard.
Greece - Arguably the easiest European side to leave out, despite performing best of the four mentioned here. It would be strange to see the last team to beat the USA in a competitive game absent from the World Cup.
Oh and it could yet get worse. Basketball mad Lithuania could yet fail to qualify. Same goes for France, Serbia, and Croatia. Only one of the quarter finalists in EuroBasket will miss out. Pooh Jeter and Ukraine could yet be the stuff of nightmares for the top brass.