Imagine three former African champions drawn in one group fighting for a World Cup ticket.
Now, consider that these very three teams sit at the Top-5 of the FIBA World Ranking (Africa) and that they have been podium-finishers in the last three editions of the FIBA AfroBasket.
That’s right. That’s what Group E of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers is all about.
When Group E gets underway in Abidjan, hosts Côte d’Ivoire, Angola and Nigeria will face each other one way or another and will be joined by high-flying Cape Verde.
And to complete the six-team group, Guinea and Uganda are headed to Abidjan to make some noise and relaunch their hopes of reaching the World Cup for the first time.
To make things even clearer about Group E, note that Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, and Nigeria competed in the last World Cup and are hoping to make a return. This time, however, to the Indonesia-Japan-Philippines World Cup showpiece next year.
All games will take place from Friday, August 26 through to Sunday, August 28 at Treichville Palais des Sports in Abidjan.
Here’s what the standings look like in Group E heading into Window 4 of the African Qualifiers:
1 .Côte d’Ivoire
Friday, August 26
Guinea vs Cape Verde – 13:0 local time
Angola vs Uganda – 16:00 local time
Côte d’Ivoire vs Nigeria – 19:00 local time
Saturday, August 27
Cape Verde vs Angola – 13:00 local time
Nigeria vs Guinea – 16:00 local time
Uganda vs Cote d’Ivoire – 19:00 local time
Sunday, August 28
Angola vs Nigeria – 13:00 local time
Guinea vs Uganda – 16:00 local time
Côte d’Ivoire vs Cape Verde – 19:00 local time
Abidjan is the first stage where these six teams – Angola, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria, and Uganda – need to prove they belong.
Group E could easily be described as the “Group of Death”, considering the number of former African champions in it, the historical rivalries, and that only two teams can qualify automatically for the 2023 World Cup.
As the only undefeated team in the group, and playing in front of their home fans for the second straight qualifying window, Cote d’Ivoire are favorites to extend their unbeaten home winning streak, but they are also the team to beat.
However, with a change at the helm of the team – Coach Natxo Lezkano is unavailable for window 4 and was replaced by Serbian Dejan Prokic – and the absence of rising star Assemian Moulare and Matt Costello, it remains to be known whether or not the Elephants can adjust to the new reality, especially as they take on ambitious Nigeria, Cape Verde, and Uganda.
The good news for Cote d’Ivoire is the return of Souleyman Diabate, an experienced point guard, who has carried his team for most of the past decade.
To end Cote d’Ivoire’s home 6-0 unbeaten run, which dates back to February 2019, the D’Tigers of Nigeria, Blue Sharks of Cape Verde, and Silverbacks of Ugandan need to be more than just ambitious. They will need to give their all against a team that is just three wins away from next year’s World Cup.
Then, there is Cape Verde, a team that sits second in the group, and shows no sign of slowing down despite suffering two warm-up game defeats to Senegal last week in Dakar.
Remember the last time Angola and Nigeria faced off? We have to go back to August 2015, when Nigeria upset Angola in the Final of the AfroBasket in Tunisia to lift their first-ever African title.
Both Angola and Nigeria are tied in their group with a 2-2 mark each although the former holds a slightly higher point-differential.
The last time Cape Verde and Angola faced each other at AfroBasket last year, the islanders shocked the eleven-time African champions Angola in the Group Phase. This week will be their first meeting in the last twelve months.
And, back in February 2019, Nigeria suffered a humiliating 72-46 defeat to Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan. Can D’Tigers pay it back?