Having drawn Croatia and Luxembourg in the third round of FIBA EuroBasket 2025 pre-qualification, Ireland’s path over the next cycle or two has become clearer
The draw could have been a lot worse but there was only so much better that it could have really gotten. That’s the nature of the pre-qualification format for EuroBasket 2025. With Ireland in the bottom seed pile, the national men’s team was always facing an uphill battle to make the main batch of qualifiers.
Ireland got Croatia, who finished 12th in the last edition of EuroBasket proper, and Luxembourg, a familiar foe.
In the former, it’s a side that has a lot of talent at the top to potentially call upon. Bojan Bogdanovic, Dario Saric, and Ivica Zubac are all in the NBA, Mario Hezonja was there and is one of the top players in Euroleague with Real Madrid, while Karlo Matkovic is expected to join the New Orleans Pelicans (who drafted him in 2022) in the near future. What the current generation of the national side faces is a lack of depth.
The reason it’s even stuck here is that as it made a mess of the World Cup cycle so landed in pre-qualifying here. That reduced side would still be formidable at this stage but with Croatia having Olympic qualifiers right after these games, there’s a good chance some of those top guys will be available for the games with Ireland.
Luxembourg is probably the least terrible of all the second seed options. Denmark have real depth, Austria already showed they what they could do at this level, and Slovakia have tended to look the stronger of them and Luxembourg. It’s the team I’d have wanted from that pool if choosing beforehand.
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19 July Vs Croatia (H)
26 July Vs Luxembourg (A)
29 July Vs Croatia (A)
5 Aug Vs Luxembourg (H)
Even a diluted Croatia team would be a really tough option for Ireland and there’s plenty of reason to believe it won’t be all that diluted. By contrast, Luxembourg will present a pair of genuinely winnable games for the senior side. A 2-2 finish is not only plausible but comes with real value as it would boost Ireland’s ranking an improve their seeding for the next pre-qualifying tournament this team enters.
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What comes next?
There are two options and they largely involve the same calendar although the more likely one hasn’t been made remotely clear yet. Should Ireland overcome the odds and win the group, then they enter the main qualifying for EuroBasket 2025 with qualifying fixtures running right up to February of that year.
If Ireland don’t qualify, they won’t be idle. Ireland’s men will automatically join the pool for pre-qualification for the 2027 FIBA World Cup. As yet, that competition doesn’t even have a host picked let alone a formal qualifying format in place but the cycle for 2023 is easy enough to follow and that had essentially the same go round as I expect here. Teams that fail to make the main EuroBasket qualification will likely go into World Cup pre-qualifiers to run along likely identical windows.
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