08 April 2013

RWANDA : Hoops Team Face Daunting Task in Afrobasket

Even after being drawn in the fair­est of the four groups for this year's Fiba Africa Champion­ship (2013 Afrobasket in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, it will still take a lot of hard work for the Men's national basketball team to progress to the next stage.
Rwanda is drawn in Group B along­side defending champions Tunisia, 1965 winners and two-time finalists Morocco and debutants Burkina Faso; and has to win atleast two matches to reach the next stage.
And while Rwanda may fancy her chances against Burkina Faso, it's the North African teams that are a major cause for concern.
Statistics show that since 2007 when Rwanda made her debut appearance in the bi-annual tournament, the team has secured only two wins against North African opposition; 80-77 against Lib­ya and 78 - 75 against Zone 5 nemesis Egypt. Both wins came in 2009 when the team finished 9th - their best dis­play thus far.
On the other hand, they have lost three times; 58 - 74 and 85-86 against Morocco and 37 - 69 against Tunisia in 2011.
In Abidjan, Rwanda will open their campaign against Burkina Faso on Au­gust 21 before playing Morocco (Au­gust 23) and Tunisia (August 25).
Group A pits hosts Ivory Coast against Egypt, Senegal and Algeria, ten-time record champions and 2011 losing finalists Angola are drawn in Group C alongside Central African Republic, Cape Verde and Mozambique while Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and the Dem­ocratic Republic of Congo complete Group D.
While admitting that it would be a tough challenge, the national basketball federation (Ferwaba) Secretary Gen­eral Richard Mutabazi, defiantly said that the team was prepared to wrestle against the best.
"We have consistently taken part in the competition and we now want to improve on our performances. This tournament attracts Africa's best teams so we have to be prepared to give ev­erything," he said.
In 2011, Rwanda finished 12th, six places adrift of Morocco. Tunisia shocked Angola 67 - 57 in the final to lift their first title.
In 2009 when Rwanda finished a respectable 9th, Angola were still the standout performers as they cruised to a 10th record title after beating Ivory Coast 82 - 72 in the final.
It was sheer brilliancy by the Ango­lans who won all their nine games en route to lifting the title.
That year, Rwanda marched into the tournament with a mission of reach­ing the quarter-finals and although the team came one position short of their target, resounding wins over Af­rica's top nations like Cameroon, Sen­egal, Egypt and Cape Verde was a great achievement in itself.
In the group stages, Rwanda picked one win and lost two games. The win came against 2007 second runners up Cape Verde (77-67) while defeats were against the Arab nations of Morocco (84-85) and Tunisia (57-74).
The team then progressed into the round of eight where they were drawn with heavy weights Senegal, Central African Republic (CAR) and Camer­oon.
At this point, even hanging onto their 2007 position (12th) seemed very unlikely. Only Vaceslav Kavedzija (na­tional head coach) knew what his guns were capable of.
Rwanda's 72-59 win over Senegal dominated headlines in Tripoli. It was the first major upset of the tournament. But similar to the group stage, the team buckled under the spot light losing 64-85 against Central Africa Republic.
The team again came under criticism for failing to build on their wins. In fact, many predicted that Rwanda would be easily-beaten by Cameroon, but to their dismay, it was upset number two for the East African team.
The burgeoning partnership between Kenny Gasana and Robert Thomson tore Cameroon apart 82-69 to signal their intentions at the event.
At this point, Rwanda had turned themselves into giant destroyers.
Despite these wins, Rwanda still missed out on the quarter-finals by a whisker but made the most of their clas­sification games by beating hosts Libya (80-77) and long-time Zone 5 nemesis Egypt (78-75).
Similar to previous editions, the top three teams in Abidjan will automati­cally qualify for next year's Fiba World Cup in Spain. 
After drawing defending champions Tunisia and Morocco:
2013 Afrobasket (Abidjan) - August 20-31
Group A: Ivory Coast, Egypt, Senegal, and Alge­ria
Group B: Rwanda, Tunisia, Morocco and Burkina Faso
Group C: Angola, Central Africa Republic, Mo­zambique and Cape Verde
Group D: Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo and Mali

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