Georgia loses game, and wins a FIBA World Cup berth anyway
Georgia lost, and then celebrated.
Iceland won, and was devastated.
One of the last Basketball World Cup spots went to Georgia on Sunday — even though it lost to Iceland 80-77 in the final Europe Region qualifying game for both teams. Iceland needed to win by four points or more to win a tiebreaker over Georgia for the World Cup berth.
It came up one point short. Both teams finished qualifying with 5-5 records, with the tiebreaker going to Georgia by the slimmest of margins. Iceland had a 3-point try by Elvar Fridriksson — its best shooter — rim out with about 3 seconds remaining, and Georgia held on for the loss that really was a win.
“Amazing. I'm so happy, man," said Georgia's Thaddus McFadden, a Michigan-born guard who played at the junior college and Division II levels before embarking on what's now a 14-year pro career overseas. “I may mess around and cry. This means so much to everybody. I'm just so happy."
Georgia beat Iceland by three points in a qualifying game in November. For Iceland to have advanced, it needed to win by four to claim the head-to-head tiebreaker; Georgia held other tiebreakers, and those were its ticket to the World Cup.
“Fought to the very end and if you told me before the game or at the start of these 10-game qualifications that it would come down to one shot by our best shooter, then I would take it," Iceland coach Craig Pedersen said. “But it was a couple of centimeters off. And congratulations to Georgia."
Georgia — a first-time World Cup qualifier — joined nine other European teams as having clinched berths in this summer's tournament. Those nine who qualified before Sunday are Latvia, Greece, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, France, Lithuania, Spain and Italy.
Montenegro also qualified on Sunday, clinching its spot with an 88-70 win over Czech Republic.
The last World Cup spot of the 12 allocated to Europe — and the last in the 32-team field — will be claimed Monday, going to either Serbia or Belgium.
Serbia will advance if it beats Great Britain. if Serbia loses that game, Belgium would advance by beating Turkey. And if Belgium loses, Serbia advances regardless of its Monday result.
Argentina will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1982, ending a string of nine consecutive appearances.
And the other five teams that were still in contention for World Cup berths could celebrate Sunday night.
Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Venezuela all qualified, joining the U.S. and Canada — who had previously clinched their World Cup berths. Those are the seven teams that will represent the Americas Region at this summer's tournament in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Puerto Rico beat Colombia 87-80, Brazil topped the U.S. 83-76, Mexico beat Uruguay 82-69, and Venezuela got in even though it lost to Canada 74-57.
The Dominican Republic beating Argentina 79-75 might have been the only real surprise of the night — in that Argentina, ranked No. 4 in the world by FIBA, won’t be playing this summer and now will need to go through a qualifying tournament just to get to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Cape Verde is now the smallest nation — population of just under 600,000 — ever to qualify for the World Cup. It topped Ivory Coast 79-64 on Sunday to claim the last spot allocated to African nations.
It's Cape Verde's first trip to the World Cup. Fellow first-time qualifier South Sudan, along with Ivory Coast, Angola and Egypt are also set to be Africa's five World Cup representatives.
Iran grabbed the last available spot from Asia on Sunday, clinching its berth when Kazakhstan lost to Australia 98-53.
Kazakhstan was the only other team still in the running for the final spot. Iran lost to China 86-74 on Sunday, but only needed a win or a Kazakhstan loss to qualify.
Iran joins co-hosts Philippines and Japan, along with Lebanon, New Zealand, Australia, China, and Jordan as Asia's eight World Cup qualifiers.
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