The FIBA Basketball World Cup’s Finest Underdogs

The FIBA Basketball World Cup is a truly international competition in which the Best basketball players from across the globe come together to compete and find out which nation is the best. When looking back on the Canadian sports statistics from years gone by, it’s unfortunate that the reds are yet to win a tournament. That being said, some incredible underdog performances are worth looking back on in the history of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Argentina Win the First Championship

The eyes of the world were on the US basketball team, which had touched down in Argentina at the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1950. Despite being one of the favorites, things didn’t click for the American team, and they struggled to generate enough points. Meanwhile, momentum was gathering with Argentina as the host nation.

While the USA could only register a cumulative point difference of +21, the Argentine team blew away the competition by generating +100. The US team managed to sneak through in a couple of Ed Sheeran encounters before finally registering a strong victory when defeating the French team 48-33. However, the Argentine team cruised their semi-final 68-33 against Egypt. Come the final, Argentina defeated the Americans 64-50 in the first-ever Basketball World Cup.

Spain Emerges as a Force

Spain has become renowned for producing talented basketball players who are ready for the NBA. An incredible 18 players have emerged from the Spanish basketball system to play in the NBA. Among those who may be known by fans are Fernando Martín Espina, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernández, Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol, and brother Pau Gasol, a winner of two NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, it was Spanish basketball great Juan Antonio San Epifanio who put the nation on the map and blazed for the stars we all know and love. After falling short with silver at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Epi finally tasted success by winning the 1985 FIBA Intercontinental Cup. Although he never won the World Cup, Epi ensured that a new generation would start playing the game and prepare the Spanish National basketball team for a brighter future.

In 2006, the World Cup was hosted in Japan and the US emerged as a favorite after cruising through group D during the preliminary round. While the US team generated 543 points, the Spanish team trailed back behind with 476. Arguably, this enabled the Spanish to fly under the radar and there were no blockbuster victories in the coming rounds. Eventually, the Greeks dispatched the Americans in the semi-final and the Spanish stepped up to win 70-47 in the final and clinch the World Cup at last.

Canadian Basketball Team Still to Win

When looking back on sports statistics, ice hockey stands out when reflecting on Canada’s participation in sports. With numerous gold medals from the Olympic Games and the World Championships, that much is clear. By comparison, this does mean that the national basketball team could do more to finally win a FIBA Basketball World Cup that can be celebrated in the history of Canadian sports statistics for years to come.

When analyzing the history of the World Cup, it can be seen that the Canadian national men’s basketball team is yet to win a gold medal, let alone a silver, or a bronze. Unfortunately, history hasn’t been as kind to the Canadians for basketball as it has for hockey. As for the best performances, these came in 1978 and 1982, respectively, when the Canadian Payne finished sixth on both occasions.

Brazil Avenges Defeat

Historically, the list of past winners of the FIBA Basketball World Cup is dominated by the USA (five golds), Yugoslavia (five golds), and Soviet Union (three golds). In fact, the only other winner aside from Spain and Argentina has been Brazil. After hosting the tournament in 1954, the Brazilian team traveled to Chile for the 1959 tournament.

In 1959, the US team was desperate to win a second World Cup, having won their first Crown in 1954 against Brazil as the host nation. As imagined, the Brazil team was desperate for revenge, having lost 62-41 in the previous tournament. Despite struggling against Puerto Rico, the US team reached the final and hoped to be worthy of their Brazilian opponents.

However, this wouldn’t be the case and the Brazilian team stepped up admirably by dominating their American opponents 81-67. The reward was a first-time win for Brazil, which would go on to repeat the feat for years later in the 1963 World Cup. This time, ever, the victory came in the form of a 90-71 triumph over Yugoslavia.

Future Underdogs

Back in 1994, when the World Cup was hosted in Canada, the Greek team finally arose as a top contender. Despite losing in the preliminary round, the Greek team won their group and were so successful that they reached the semi-final Page for the first time in their history of playing basketball. Unfortunately for the Greeks, they were drawn against the superior US and the dream ended with a 97-58 defeat – a further defeat followed in the third-place game versus Croatia.

Unfortunately, the Greeks lost again in the semis and the third-place match in the 1998 World Cup. After licking their wounds, Greece’s men’s national basketball team finally bit back by reaching the 2006 World Cup final. I have heard that progression came at a cost, as defeating the US seemed to suck the energy from the Greeks, who lost 70-47 to Spain. However, this progression is why Greece could one day win as underdogs.

Before finishing, an even deeper pic for a future undergo winner would be the New Zealand team, which is humorously known as the Tall Blacks. The Oceania basketball scene is yet to produce a world champion and New Zealand could be the team that corrects this imbalance in the years to come. The Tall Blacks have maintained a relatively quiet caught in the tournament, having only entered on six occasions. In 2002, the best performance was a semi-final defeat to Yugoslavia. If new talent emerges, New Zealand could be a future contender.


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